Published: 09:45, May 29, 2024
Djokovic and Sabalenka ease through on rain-hit day at French Open
By Reuters
Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert at the end of their men's singles match on Court Philippe-Chatrier on day three of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on May 28, 2024. (PHOTO / AFP)

PARIS - Rain put a dampener on the third day of the French Open but defending champion Novak Djokovic avoided getting bogged down as his quest for a professional era record-extending 25th Grand Slam title got off to a solid enough start on Tuesday.

It was business-like rather than spectacular for Djokovic in the late match on Court Philippe Chatrier but earlier Casper Ruud and Aryna Sabalenka provided some bright spots on a grey Parisian day with impressive first-round wins.

Denmark's 13th seed Holger Rune also brought his usual flair to court as he saw off Britain's Dan Evans in straight sets while French favorite Alize Cornet waved goodbye as she was well beaten by seventh seed Zheng Qinwen in what was the final match of her long career.

There were still some blemishes in his game including a dip in the second set but Djokovic also produced some scintillating tennis at times to win 6-4 7-6(3) 6-4 over Pierre-Hugues Herbert

The day took a long while to come to life though as spectators, many wearing winter jackets, were starved of action throughout the day on the outside courts, while players kicked their heels in the locker rooms.

No play was possible until 4pm, other than under the retractable roofs of Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen, although some of the backlog was cleared later on.

Top seed Djokovic took to court in the evening to face Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert with doubts about his form after a disappointing season in which he has not reached a final.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a shot against France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, on May 28, 2024. (PHOTO / AP)

There were still some blemishes in his game including a dip in the second set but Djokovic also produced some scintillating tennis at times to win 6-4 7-6(3) 6-4.

"It's a straight-set win. In the moments when it mattered I think I delivered, played a great tiebreak, stayed focused," Serbian Djokovic, who took his first-round record at Roland Garros to 20-0, told reporters.

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"I'm glad that I started the way I started, the way I felt on the court. Comparing to the previous weeks of tournaments I played, I felt good. So I'm moving in a positive direction."

Norway's Casper Ruud serves to Brazil's Felipe Meligeni Alves during their men's singles match on Court Philippe-Chatrier on day three of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on May 28, 2024. (PHOTO / AFP)

Two-times runner-up Ruud swept aside Brazilian qualifier Felipe Alves 6-3 6-4 6-3 in a renewed bid for a maiden Grand Slam title in Paris after disappointments in the previous two years.

High on confidence following his Geneva title, the world number seven produced a masterclass in serving as he raced past his unheralded opponent in under two hours.

"This is one of the biggest tournaments for me and everyone every year. One of my highlights. I'm always looking forward to it. The last two years have given me so much here," Ruud said.

World number two Sabalenka, who is eyeing a second major of the season after her successful Australian Open defense in January, mowed down Russian teenager Erika Andreeva in 68 minutes 6-1 6-2

"I hope I can make it another good year."

World number two Sabalenka, who is eyeing a second major of the season after her successful Australian Open defense in January, mowed down Russian teenager Erika Andreeva in 68 minutes 6-1 6-2.

Fourth seed Elena Rybakina overcame an early wobble to glide past Belgian Greet Minnen 6-2 6-F3 earlier in the day, showing no signs of the illness that had hampered her preparations for the year's second major.

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus plays a shot against Russia's Erika Andreeva during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris on May 28, 2024. (PHOTO / AP)

The third straight rain-hit day of the tournament began with a big outpouring of love for Cornet, as one of the ever-present players at Grand Slams in the last two decades bid adieu.

The holder of the professional era women's record for consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearances with 69, Cornet had previously said she would retire after the tournament.

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"My feeling is that I have done my duty, I went till the end of the adventure, and that was important for me," Cornet said.

Australian Alex De Minaur thumped Alex Michelsen, Petra Martic overcame Kristina Mladenovic and Dutch player Arantxa Rus stunned three-times Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber once play got going on the outside courts.

Danish shot-maker Rune's victory over Dan Evans meant Katie Boulter walked on court later knowing that she was Britain's last hope of having a singles player in round two. But the 26th seed went down 4-6 7-5 6-4 to Spain's Paula Badosa.