Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 October 2020

French Open: Novak Djokovic brings the 'intensity' to cruise into third round

Men's fifth seed Tsitsipas also produced a dominant victory, while 2017 women's champion Ostapenko stunned second seed Pliskova

Novak Djokovic was in complete control against Ricardas Berankis to book his place in the third round of the French Open. EPA
Novak Djokovic was in complete control against Ricardas Berankis to book his place in the third round of the French Open. EPA

Men's top seed Novak Djokovic claimed his 70th French Open victory on Thursday with a ruthless display against Ricardas Berankis.

After losing just five games in his opening round demolition job of Mikael Ymer, the world No 1 was equally efficient in his second round contest, thrashing world No 66 Berankis 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in just one hour and 23 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier and in font of a limited number of spectators.

"I felt really good. I hope I can carry on like this," said Djokovic, who moves level with Roger Federer in second place for all-time wins at Roland Garros.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion will be widely expected to edge ahead of the Swiss great after his third round match, where he faces lucky loser Daniel Elahi Galan Riveros, the world No 153 from Colombia.

Djokovic, 33, still has some way to go to track down defending and 12-time champion Rafael Nadal's current wins tally of 95, but based on his form in Paris the Serb is, as expected, shaping up to be one of the leading contenders.

"Right from the blocks I want to bring in the intensity," Djokovic said of his second round performance. That he did, breaking Berankis in the Lithuanian's first service game before claiming a second break in the sixth game to hammer home his advantage.

The second set followed a similar pattern, Djokovic claiming a break at the first opportunity and following it up with another late on to cruise into a two-set lead. The 2016 French Open champion maintained his dominance in the third set, racing into a 4-0 lead before closing out the victory on serve.

Djokovic is yet to lose a completed match this year, his 33 wins in 2020 earning him titles at the inaugural ATP Cup, a record-eighth at the Australian Open, and a fifth in Dubai prior to the coronavirus lockdown.

Since tennis' return, Djokovic has clinched titles at the Western & Southern Open and the Italian Open. His only defeat came when he was disqualified from the US Open for striking a line judge with a ball.

Arguably the biggest threats to Djokovic's hopes of a second Roland Garros crown – Nadal and US Open champion Dominic Thiem, who reached the past two French Open finals – are positioned in the other half of the draw.

However, the second-highest seed remaining in Djokovic's side, Stefanos Tsitsipas, offered a timely reminder of his talents with an impressive 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over claycourt specialist Pablo Cuevas.

The Greek fifth seed was forced to battle back from two sets down in his first round match, but enjoyed a far more comfortable outing on Thursday and will face Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene for a place in the Round of 16.

“I would rate my game at a very good level," Tsitsipas, 22, said. "I’m glad I had a three-set match today after the first round.”

The one major shock in the men's draw on Thursday occurred on Court Suzanne Lenglen where Canadian ninth seed Denis Shapovalov lost a five-hour marathon to Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena, 7-5, 6-7, 6-3, 3-6, 8-6.

Ostapenko stuns Pliskova

Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 champion, was in fine form to defeat second seed Karolina Pliskova. Reuters
Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 champion, was in fine form to defeat second seed Karolina Pliskova. Reuters

However, the biggest upset of the day played out in the match that preceded Djokovic's on Court Philippe-Chatrier as former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko thrashed second seed Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-2.

Latvian Ostapenko, who won the 2017 title as an unseeded player, has struggled to consistently build on that breakthrough victory and entered this year's tournament ranked No 43 in the world.

But the powerful groundstrokes that carried her to the trophy three years ago were on display against Pliskova as she took full advantage of an error-strewn performance by the Czech.

"I was just trying to play my game, but I knew I had to return well today because she obviously has one of the best serves on tour," Ostapenko, 23, said.

"I think I was returning very well today. I had to hold my serve, which I did pretty good. Also to use some drop shots, because it's a very good shot in these conditions."

There was also a win for Spanish 11th seed Garbine Muguruza – Ostapenko's predecessor as French Open champion –who, incidentally, beat Pliskova's twin sister Kristyna, 6-3, 6-2.

Fourth seed and Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin, seventh seed Petra Kvitova, and eighth seed Aryna Sabalenka all progressed to the third round, while American 29th seed Sloane Stephens was eliminated.

Updated: October 1, 2020 10:02 PM

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