Mon, 25 Sep 2023

Third seed Novak Djokovic overpowered Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Friday to reach the last-16 at the French Open.

The 36-year-old won 7-6, 7-6, 6-2 to advance to the fourth round for the 17th time in 19 visits.

The only time the Serb has failed to reach the second week came on his first appearance in 2005 in Paris and in 2009.

Djokovic rode his luck in the opening set on cengre court. After clawing his way back from an early loss of his serve, he threw in two double faults at 5-5 to help Davidovich to a 6-5 lead and a chance to serve for the set.

But the 23-year-old declined the invitation to seize the early advantage and succumbed in the tiebreak.

Djokovic, seeking a third French Open title and a record 23rd Grand Slam singles crown, saved a set point on his way to winning the second set in the tiebreak by seven points to five.


He broke Davidovich Fokina early in the third and kept his composure to conserve his advantage.

Serving to stay in the match at 2-5 down, Davidovich Fokina offered Djokovic two match points.

He saved one but Djokovic claimed the tie when his opponent's forehand drive landed long.

The pair embraced at the net after three hours and 36 minutes of combat.

"I knew it was going to be a physical match," Djokovic said in his on-court post match interview.

"Alejandro is an amazing fighter with not many weaknesses. I must offer him my congratulations for his fighting spirit. He played a great match."

Djokovic will take on either the 13th seed Hubert Hurkacz from Poland or the unseeded Peruvain Juan Pablo Varillas for a place in the last eight.

"A win is a win," added Djokovic. "The first two sets took nearly three hours. You have to be ready because that's what Grand Slam tournaments are about. It takes effort and we have to believe in ourselves. I'm very proud of my performance today."


Elsewhere in the top half of the men's draw, 11th seed Karen Khachanov overpowered the unseeded Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis in four sets and there was a surprise as seventh seed Andrey Rublev let slip a two-set lead to lose to the unseeded Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Sebastian Ofner from Austria also needed five sets to dispatch the Italian veteran Fabio Fognini and reach the last-16 at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his eight years on the tour.

The 27-year-old will face either the fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or the unseeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman

In the women's draw, second seed Aryna Sabalenka blasted past Kamilla Rakhimova 6-2, 6-2 to reach the last-16 for the first time where she will face the 2018 finalist Sloane Stephens.

"This win gives me so much belief in myself here in Paris," said the 25-year-old from Belarus who will take on the American for the fourth time

"Sloane is a great player and it always been tough battles against her," said Sabalenka who has won all of their previous encounters.

"She's moving well, putting a lot of balls back ... not so many unforced errors from her. So you have to win the point. I'm really looking forward to it."

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova ousted her fellow Russian Anastasia Potapova. She beat the 24th seed 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 to set up a last-16 match with the 28th seed Elise Mertens who overwhelmed the third seed Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-3.

Elina Svitolina from Ukraine and Elina Avanesyan from Russia also moved into the last-16 with victories over Anna Blinkova and Clara Tauson respectively.

Originally published on RFI

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