Paris, June 1 (IANS) Former champion Novak Djokovic and World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz continued their pursuit of the French Open title and the chance to become World No.1 as they both advanced to the third round at the Roland Garros here.
Djokovic overcame a pulsating first-set challenge from Marton Fucsovics before accelerating to an ultimately comfortable 7-6(2), 6-0, 6-3 second-round victory on Wednesday night.
Playing on Court Philippe Chatrier just before him, Alcaraz recovered from a mid-match dip to book his spot in the third round in Paris for the third consecutive year.
After clinching the opening set, the top seed suffered a loss of concentration in the second set against Taro Daniel. However, the 20-year-old quickly improved his level to advance past the Japanese star 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Earlier in the day, fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, another favourite for the title also advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 victory over Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain at Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Djokovic, the third seed from Serbia who is hoping to win his 23rd title at the French Open here and break the tie with Rafael Nadal on 22 Grand Slam titles, let slip a 5-2 lead in the opening set as an inspired Fucsovics roared back into contention.
The World No. 83 Fucsovics went toe-to-toe with Djokovic in a series of thrilling exchanges under the lights in Paris, but the 22-time major champion stepped up a gear to comfortably claim the tie-break.
It was largely plain sailing for Djokovic from then on, as he b’oke Fucsovics’ serve seven times across the second and third sets to complete a two-hour, 44-minute victory. Djokovic struck the ball with power and depth off both wings throughout, a positive sign for the 36-year-old as he bids for a record 23rd major crown and to reclaim the No. 1 ATP Ranking.
As opposed to any lapse from Djokovic, a sublime streak of returning from Fucsovics was the basis for his first-set recovery. The Hungarian carved out nine break points in the set but converted only one as Djokovic repeatedly repelled him with precise serving at key moments.
Despite appearing visibly frustrated for a time after losing his ea’ly lead, Djokovic’s level did not waver and he completed his victory having won more than half (52/99) of points on return. With his win, he extended his ATP head-to-head series lead against Fucsovics to 5-0.
Alcaraz, who is the top seed at a major for the first time, used his variety to pull Daniel around and showed smooth court coverage to improve to 32-3 on the season after two hours and 25 minutes.
The World No. 1 is chasing his fifth tour-level title of the year and second major crown in Paris this fortnight. The 2022 US Open champion lifted trophies on clay in Madrid, Barcelona and Buenos Aires earlier this year, while he triumphed hard in Indian Wells.
The Spaniard, who struck 46 winners against Daniel, will continue his title quest against Denis Shapovalov after the Canadian beat Italian Matteo Arnaldi 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Last year’s quarter-finalist Alcaraz is currently second in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. The 20-year-old will climb to the top spot if he wins his 11th tour-level title at the clay-court major after Live Race leader Daniil Medvedev suffered a shock first-round defeat on Tuesday.
British lefty Cameron Norrie also advanced, defeating Frenchman Lucas Pouille 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the third round for the third time. The 27-year-old is a potential fourth-round opponent for Alcaraz.