The 22-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic on Monday produced a masterclass performance and made an imperious start to his bid for a record 23rd major crown at French Open 2023, where the Serbian defeated Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(1) on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Two-time champion Djokovic will now take on Marton Fucsovics next in Paris.
Kovacevic had a solid start to his Grand Slam main draw debut, but he was unable to fend off his legendary opponent after Djokovic broke in the sixth game. Despite a third-set rally by the American to force a tie-break, Djokovic held firm to secure a first-round triumph in which he converted five of his 12 break opportunities and hit 41 winners to Kovacevic's 25.
The World No. 114 in the world Kovacevic, who idolised Djokovic as a youngster and posed for a selfie with him at the 2005 US Open as a seven-year-old, had glimpses of his highest level during the two-hour, 26-minute match. However, he was unable to match Djokovic's consistency from the baseline and had no response to the third seed's razor-sharp return.
Despite an uncommon dip in the third set from Djokovic, the World No. 3 generally maintained a high level throughout his triumph. He hit solid groundstrokes from both wings and won 82% (37/45) of points off his first serve throughout the match.
Djokovic, a two-time Roland Garros champion, may leapfrog Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam championships race with his second major success of the season in Paris (he previously won the Australian Open in January). His next opponent in the French city will be World No. 83 Marton Fucsovics in the second round.
A third victory in Paris would also secure a return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for Djokovic, who was usurped from 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.
The 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka narrowly avoided a second consecutive first-round exit at the clay-court major when he battled past Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-7(2), 1-6, 6-4. The Swiss needed four hours and 35 minutes to take an 8-0 ATP Head2Head series lead against the lefty. (ANI)