World number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic eased into the French Open third round on Wednesday by defeating the new pupil of his former long-time coach as another obstacle in women’s top seed Iga Swiatek’s path to the title was removed after fourth seed Maria Sakkari was knocked out.
Djokovic saw off Slovakia’s Alex Molcan, who is coached by Marian Vajda, the man who inspired most of his 20 Slam titles, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4). Djokovic fired 10 aces and 40 winners past his 38th-ranked opponent and will next face Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene for a place in the last 16.
“It was a real pleasure to play on Court Suzanne Lenglen. I don’t have a lot of opportunities to play here,” said the 35-year-old. “I could feel the support. There were tricky conditions today with a lot of wind coming in different directions. So I had to stay focused and stay patient. I have a lot of respect for Alex, he’s a specialist on this surface.”
Third seed Alexander Zverev, last year’s semi-finalist, rallied from two sets down to beat Argentina’s Sebastian Baez 2-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-5 in three hours and 36 minutes. Zverev was 4-2 down in the deciding set but the German fought back and saved a match point before wrapping up victory over his 21-year-old opponent.
American 13th seed Taylor Fritz was knocked out of the clay court major in a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 second-round loss to Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles, who is ranked 131, but British 10th seed Cameron Norrie advanced to the third round by beating Australia’s Jason Kubler 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
Ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime sailed into the third round with a routine 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 win over Argentine Camilo Ugo Carabelli, while big-serving 23rd seed John Isner battled past local wildcard Gregoire Barrere 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5).
On the women’s side, Sakkari became the latest casualty among the women’s top seeds after Czech Karolina Muchova knocked out last year’s semi-finalist 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4).
Sakkari never found her groove on Court Suzanne Lenglen as her opponent, who reached the Australian Open semi-finals last year, set up a meeting with American Amanda Anisimova, who advanced with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Croatia’s Donna Vekic.
The Greek was the latest high seed to exit after Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur (6) and defending champion Barbora Krejcikova (2) were knocked out in the first round.
World number one and red hot favourite Swiatek and third seed Paula Badosa are the only two players from the top six left in the women’s draw.
U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu, playing her first French Open, also crashed out in the second round after losing 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 defeat to the unseeded Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Leylah Fernandez, last year’s US Open beaten finalist, reached the third round at Roland Garros with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic.
American Coco Gauff, 18, battled through a tough second set to defeat Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) and reach the third round.
Former world number one Angelique Kerber of Germany saw off a spirited challenge from local wildcard Elsa Jacquemot, reaching the third round with a 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) win. Three-time major winner Kerber is aiming to complete a career Grand Slam.
Twice major winner Victoria Azarenka held off 2014 semi-finalist Andrea Petkovic in a tight second set to secure a 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) win while Swiss 23rd seed Jil Teichmann also progressed after easing past Serbia’s Olga Danilovic 6-4, 6-1.
In Tuesday’s late action, Stefanos Tsitsipas came back from the brink to reach the second round as the fourth seed defeated world number 66 Lorenzo Musetti 5-7, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.
Russia’s Andrey Rublev, the world number seven, saw off South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in his Roland Garros opener.
Hugo Gaston knocked out Australia’s Alex De Minaur, the 19th seed, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 0-6, 7-6 (10-4) in front of a raucous home crowd on Court Suzanne-Lenglen while Frances Tiafoe held off Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi 7-5, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) to pick up his first main draw win at Roland Garros.
Among the women, seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka beat Chloe Paquet 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 after a first-set scare to advance while former French Open champion Simona Halep overcame a second set blip to beat German 18-year-old Nastasja Schunk 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.