Former champion Novak Djokovic on Wednesday reached the French Open third round for the 13th consecutive year by beating Spanish qualifier Jaume Munar 7-6 (7/1), 6-4, 6-4, while second seed Alexander Zverev staged a fightback to win a five-setter against Dusan Lajovic.
Djokovic, the 2016 Roland Garros champion and former world No. 1, is seeded 20th this year after struggling to rediscover his best form following a right elbow injury.
He was not at his best on Court Suzanne Lenglen, but goes on to face Spain’s 13th seed Roberto Bautista Agut for a place in the last 16.
The Serbian 12-time Grand Slam champion fired 39 winners, but also 33 unforced errors and was broken three times by Munar, the world No. 155.
“I am very happy to be here on Suzanne Lenglen and see so many people and see the support,” Djokovic said. “Jaume is a great player, he has lots of quality and good concentration. I congratulate him on a great match today.”
German world No. 3 Zverev found himself in deep trouble when trailing by two sets to one against Lajovic, but the Serbian ran out of gas as it finished 2-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.
The 21-year-old, a winner of three Masters titles, is yet to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final and was knocked out in the first round at Roland Garros last year.
However, Zverev moved into round three for the second time, where he is to play Bosnian 26th seed Damir Dzumhur, as he looks to become the first German man to win the title since 1937.
Fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov went the distance, too, eventually coming through a marathon with American Jared Donaldson 6-7 (2/7), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 10-8.
The Bulgarian was pushed all the way by world No. 57 Donaldson in a match that lasted four hours, 19 minutes, but grabbed the crucial break in the 17th game of the deciding set as his opponent started to struggle with cramp.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori also staged a comeback to edge out Frenchman Benoit Paire on Court Philippe Chatrier, winning 6-3, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in his first Grand Slam event since Wimbledon last year after recovering from a wrist injury.
Seventh seed Dominic Thiem, a semi-finalist in each of the past two years, grabbed the third set against Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas to lead 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 when darkness fell, with the pair scheduled to finish the match yesterday.
In the women’s singles, world No. 1 Simona Halep fought back after a disastrous opening set to beat American Alison Riske 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 in their delayed first-round match.
Halep, the runner-up in Paris in 2014 and last year, slumped 0-5 down in the opening set to world No. 83 Riske, whose only win at the tournament came in 2014.
The Romanian committed 16 unforced errors in the set, but stepped up a gear from that point on to book a second-round match against Taylor Townsend of the US.
“It’s always difficult in the first round of a Grand Slam, you are always nervous,” 26-year-old Halep said after a match that was pushed back from Tuesday due to rain.
Halep needs to reach the semi-finals or better if she is to retain the world top spot.
Her main rival for the top ranking, second seed Caroline Wozniacki, joined her in the last 32 by thrashing Spanish qualifier Georgina Garcia Perez 6-1, 6-0 in only 51 minutes.
Eighth seed Petra Kvitova eased into the third round with a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena on Court One.
The two-time Wimbledon champion has now won 13 consecutive matches on clay after claiming titles in Prague and Madrid, and is to face Estonian 25th seed Anett Kontaveit for a place in the last 16.
Ukrainian fourth seed Elina Svitolina reached the last 32 for the fourth straight year by brushing aside Viktoria Kuzmova in straight sets.
The 23-year-old, who arrived in Paris having won her second straight Italian Open title, saw off her Slovakian opponent 6-3, 6-4 and is next to take on Romanian 31st seed Mihaela Buzarnescu.
Elsewhere, charismatic Japanese 21st seed Naomi Osaka came through a tight match with Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas 6-4, 7-5.
In the women’s doubles, Taiwan’s Chan sisters successfully negotiated the first round.
Fourth seeds Latisha Chan and Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the US defeated French duo Virginie Razzano and Jade Suvrijn 6-4, 6-1 in 1 hour, 18 minutes.
Eighth seeds Chan Hao-ching and Yang Zhaoxuan of China edged Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan and Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-4, 6-4 in 1 hour, 21 minutes to set up a second-round clash with Spanish duo Anabel Medina Garrigues and Arantxa Parra Santonja, who took 2 hours, 22 minutes to see off Johanna Konta of Britain and Alison Riske of the US 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).
Serena Williams, who made her Grand Slam return with a singles win on Tuesday, partnered with sister Venus in a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 doubles victory over Japan’s Shuko Aoyama and Miyu Kato.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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