Paris: Former Champion Novak Djokovic started his campaign to capture a record 23rd Grand Slam title and the World No.1 ranking with a comprehensive win in the men’s singles first round at the French Open here Monday.
Two-time French Open champion Djokovic, who also has a chance of becoming the first man in the history of Open Era tennis to achieve the triple career Grand Slam, dispatched Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(1) in the first round on Court Philippe Chatrier at the Roland Garros here.
Kovacevic made a confident start to his Grand Slam main draw debut, but he was unable to hold his illustrious opponent back after Djokovic claimed the first break of the match in the sixth game.
Despite a third-set turnaround in which the American rallied from 3-5 to force a tie-break, Djokovic held firm to complete a first-round win in which he converted five of his 12 break points and struck 41 winners to Kovacevic’s 25.
The World No. 114 Kovacevic, who idolised Djokovic as a child and posed for a picture with the Serbian as a seven-year-old at the 2005 US Open, showed flashes of his best level throughout the two-hour, 26-minute encounter. Yet he was unable to match the consistency of Djokovic from the baseline and had no answer to the third seed’s razor-sharp returns.
Despite an uncharacteristic lapse from Djokovic in the third set, the World No. 3 maintained a high level of play throughout his victory. He struck his groundstrokes cleanly off both wings and won 82 per cent (37/45) of points behind his first serve in the match.
By winning the title here, Djokovic can move ahead of Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam titles race with his second major triumph of the season in Paris (he also triumphed at January’s Australian Open). His next challenge in the French capital is a second-round clash with World No. 83 Marton Fucsovics.
A third victory in Paris would also secure a return to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings for Djokovic, who was usurped from the top spot by Carlos Alcaraz three weeks ago. The 36-year-old now has 86 match wins at Roland Garros, second only to Nadal’s 112.