Novak Djokovic launched his quest for a record-breaking 23rd men’s Grand Slam singles title with a 6-3 6-2 7-6 (7-1) first-round victory over debutant Aleksandar Kovacevic at the French Open.
The former two-time champion breezed through the first two sets before encountering resistance from the 24-year-old American whose lack of experience then showed in the tie-break on the world’s biggest clay court.
But Djokovic ended the contest with a sizzling service return on his first match point to set up a meeting with Hungarian journeyman Marton Fucsovics.
Djokovic continues first-round winning streak
Novak Djokovic is the second player in the Open Era to win 65 consecutive first-round matches at Grand Slam events (between Roland Garros 2006 and 2023), equalling Roger Federer (between Wimbledon 2003 and 2021).
The third seed has not dropped a set in the opening round at Roland Garros since 2010, so this was a daunting task for Kovacevic, who is of Serbian heritage and idolised Djokovic as a child.
Kovacevic, who first watched Djokovic play at the US Open 18 years ago, made a confident start to his Grand Slam main draw debut, but 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 the win in which he converted five of his 12 break points and struck 41 winners.
Djokovic perfect in French Open first-round matches
Novak Djokovic improves to 19-0 in French Open first-round matches. Djokovic hit 10 aces (41 winners overall) and converted 5 of 12 break points en route to his 86th Roland Garros win.
Next: 4-0 H2H vs Marton Fucsovics in 2R.
Top seed Carlos Alcaraz impressed in a 6-0 6-2 7-5 victory over Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli.
The 20-year-old has already cemented his status as a top contender on the biggest stages and is one of the favourites to take on the mantle of his compatriot and 14-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal, who is absent this year with a hip issue.
A one-sided encounter became much more of a contest in the third set, with Cobolli breaking Alcaraz when he served for the match, but the young Spaniard brushed off the setback to book his spot in round two against Japan’s Taro Daniel.
Alcaraz issues early warning to his rivals
Carlos Alcaraz improve to 31-3 on the season (21-2 on clay).
Alcaraz is youngest (20) Roland Garros top seed in men’s draw since Bjorn Borg (19) in 1976.
Fabulous win for Fabio
Veteran Fabio Fognini rolled back the years to take down 10th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4 6-4 6-3 as the Canadian became the first top-10 player in the men’s draw to exit the tournament.
‘Stan The Man’ wins in five
Stan Wawrinka prevailed in four hours and 39 minutes with a thrilling 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 1-6 6-4 victory against Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Wawrinka is now the player with the most wins in five sets at Roland Garros in the Open Era (11), surpassing Gael Monfils and Harold Solomon (10 each).