Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka look in ominous form at French Open

Serbian and Belarusian power to straight-sets victories to reach Round 3 at Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic celebrates after beating Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 at the French Open at Roland Garros on May 30, 2024. AFP
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Reigning champion Novak Djokovic looked in ominously good touch at the French Open as he swept to a straight-sets victory over Roberto Carballes Baena after winning 14 of the final 17 games on Thursday.

The top seed dropped his opening service game against 63rd-ranked Carballes Baena but from 4-4 in the first set he took total control and powered to victory on the back of an impressive 43 winners.

Djokovic, 37, chasing a record-extending 25th Grand Slam title, won 6-4, 6-1, 6-2, and goes on to face either Gael Monfils of France or Italian 30th seed Lorenzo Musetti.

The Serbian – who defeated Casper Ruud in last year's final – is through to Round 3 at Roland Garros for an Open-era record 19th time after sealing his 94th win at the Paris Grand Slam, the most he has registered at a single tournament, along with the Australian Open.

“Thank you for the support,” Djokovik said in his on-court interview. “There's so much rain this year at Roland Garros, it's so great so many came out to support under the roof.

“The last game of the first set I played really well and started to play at the higher level. At the end of the match I was then playing very well. I am very happy with this performance.”

Alexander Zverev followed up his emotional first-round defeat of 14-time champion Rafael Nadal by beating the unseeded David Goffin 7-6, 6-2, 6-2.

The fourth-seeded German – who also beat Nadal in straight sets – overpowered the Belgian, hitting 37 winners under the roof on Court Suzanne Lenglen to advance after two hours and 22 minutes.

“Since the draw came out, the only thing the tennis world was talking about was that match [against Nadal],” Zverev, who will now face Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor or Italian Luciano Darderi, said.

“He won the tournament 14 times, so he deserves all the credit and respect and all the acknowledgements he gets. So after I beat him I felt that I had already won the tournament, but in the end it is only a first round.

“You have to focus for another two weeks entirely and I am happy I had another two days off as I had to compose myself emotionally. I had to ground myself and get back to work and playing good tennis. I am extremely happy with the level today.”

Fifth seed Daniil Medvedev is also through to Round 3 after his opponent Miomir Kecmanovic retired from their match. The Russian was leading the second-round contest 6-1, 5-0 when Serbia's Kecmanovic decided he could not continue and Medvedev will now play Argentine 31st seed Mariano Navone or Czech Tomas Machac.

In the women's draw, Iga Swiatek’s main rivals for the title eased into the third round a day after the Pole’s epic tussle with Naomi Osaka.

While No 1 and defending champion Swiatek had to come from 5-2 down in the third set and save a match point against an inspired Osaka, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina enjoyed relatively stress-free passages.

Second seed Sabalenka, who has reached the semi-finals of her last six Grand Slam events, dispatched world No 83 Moyuka Uchijima 6-2, 6-2 despite the Japanese player coming into the match on a 19-match winning streak, having won three consecutive ITF titles across two surfaces and continents before successfully qualifying in Paris.

The Belarusian admits she does not watch much tennis herself, but like everyone else at Roland Garros she was glued to Wednesday’s dramatic showdown.

“I watched yesterday. Yeah, it was just incredible to see Naomi back on the top level,” said Sabalenka, who swept aside Uchijima in 62 minutes. “She played really great tennis, and it was incredible to see Iga save that match. Yeah, it was great-level match.”

Sabalenka will now face her good friend Paula Badosa, who came from a set down to beat Yulia Putintseva 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.

“It's always tough to play your best friend on tour,” said Australian Open champion Sabalenka. “But we know how to separate court and life. So it's always a great battle. I always enjoy playing against her.”

Former Wimbledon champion Rybakina, seeded fourth, defeated Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-3 6-4 and will now face either Belgian No 25 seed Elise Mertens or Serbia's Petra Martic.

Fifth seed Marketa Vondrousova fought back from a disastrous opening set and a further stumble in the decider – when the Czech was 4-0 up – to eventually defeat Katie Volynets of the United States 6-0, 1-6, 6-4.

Updated: May 30, 2024, 4:57 PM