Djokovic continues French Open progress after Kosovo controversy
Novak Djokovic brushed aside the furore surrounding his recent comments about clashes in Kosovo by easing into the French Open third round on Wednesday, then saying they reflected what he “stands for”.
Djokovic, who is chasing a men’s record 23rd Grand Slam singles title at Roland Garros, came through a marathon first set against Hungarian Marton Fucsovics before prevailing 7-6 (7/2), 6-0, 6-3 in the night session on Court Philippe Chatrier.
He had scrawled the message “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence” on a camera following his first-round match on Monday.
“I would say it again, but I don’t need to because you have my quotes,” said Djokovic on Wednesday.
“I’m aware that a lot of people would disagree, but it is what it is. It’s something that I stand for. So that’s all.”
There was plenty of drama on the court too during an 87-minute opening set which saw Djokovic broken while he was serving for it.
But eight previous break points saved proved key for the third seed as Djokovic went on to dominate a tie-break.
World number 83 Fucsovics could not maintain his level, though, as Djokovic raced through the next seven games.
Fucsovics rallied by breaking back early in the third set and again when Djokovic served for the match.
But Djokovic wrapped up victory in the next game on his second match point.
The Serb has still not failed to reach the third round of a Grand Slam tournament since the 2017 Australian Open.
The two-time champion will next face Spanish 29th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina for a fourth-round place on Friday.
World number one Carlos Alcaraz overcame a second-set blip to blow away Japan’s Taro Daniel 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 and set up a tie with Canadian 26th seed Denis Shapovalov.
The 20-year-old is bidding to add the Roland Garros title to the US Open he won in 2022.
He has already enjoyed a fine clay-court season, winning tournaments in Barcelona and Madrid.
“I’m winning all the time because I am smiling,” said Alcaraz. “And I always said that smiling for me is the key of everything.”
Stefanos Tsitsipas cruised into the third round with a straight-sets win over Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena.
The Greek fifth seed, the runner-up to Djokovic in 2021, claimed a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 win on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Tsitsipas will next face Argentinian Diego Schwartzman for a place in the second week.
Seventh seed Andrey Rublev battled past Frenchman Corentin Moutet, winning 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
Thanasi Kokkinakis ended 38-year-old former champion Stan Wawrinka’s tournament with a dramatic 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3 triumph to reach the third round of a Slam for the first time in eight years.
The injury-plagued Australian will next take on Russian Karen Khachanov after the 11th seed’s 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 success against Radu Albot.
Success for Svitolina –
Elina Svitolina battled back from a break and a set down to beat Storm Hunter, just 12 hours after her husband Gael Monfils’ late-night escape act.
Svitolina, playing at a Grand Slam event for the first time since the 2022 Australian Open, downed qualifier Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Home favourite Monfils claimed his first win in nine months in a five-set first-round thriller against Sebastian Baez which finished after midnight in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
“Yes, I watched him, but not live. I was screaming in my room so if someone heard me, it was me cheering for Gael,” said Svitolina, who was being supported on Court Simonne Mathieu by Monfils, who later withdrew from the tournament due to a wrist injury.
Svitolina will next play Russian Anna Blinkova in a politically-charged rematch of last weekend’s Strasbourg final, won by the Ukrainian who then did not shake her opponent’s hand.
Blinkova needed nine match points to beat French fifth seed Caroline Garcia 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in a dramatic encounter.
World number two Aryna Sabalenka cruised through with a 7-5, 6-2 win over fellow Belarusian Iryna Shymanovich.
Australian Open champion Sabalenka will face Russian Kamilla Rakhimova in the last 32.
American third seed Jessica Pegula booked her spot in the last 32 when opponent Camila Giorgi retired injured after losing the first set 6-2.
Ninth seed Daria Kasatkina is also safely through after seeing off 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova 6-3, 6-4.
Former champion Jelena Ostapenko crashed out, though, losing 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 to the United States’ Peyton Stearns.