Djokovic moving in 'positive direction' as French Open plays catch-up

For the first time since 2018, the 37-year-old has not made a final let alone add a title to his 98 career titles.
Novak Djokovic.
Novak Djokovic.(File Photo | AFP)

PARIS: Novak Djokovic believes he's moving in a "positive direction" as he targets a place in the last 32 of the French Open on Thursday with Roland Garros chiefs playing catch-up in a rain-hit schedule.

The world number one, chasing a fourth title at Roland Garros and record 25th Grand Slam, arrived in Paris in the midst of a worrying dry spell.

For the first time since 2018, the 37-year-old has not made a final let alone add a title to his 98 career titles.

However, he saw positive signs in his opening straight-sets win against Pierre-Hugues Herbert, his 20th victory in 20 first round matches at Roland Garros.

"I'm glad that I started the way I started, the way I felt on the court," said Djokovic, who has advanced to the quarter-finals or better every year since 2010.

"Compared to the previous weeks of tournaments I played, I felt good, better. So I'm moving in a positive direction."

He added: "I was fist pumping, I was focused, I was there, I was present. So I'm pleased with the way I had a mindset on the court. That was something that I was looking for. And where are you going to feel that way if not in Grand Slams."

On Thursday, Djokovic faces 63rd-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain, a player he has defeated twice in straight sets.

Novak Djokovic.
Nadal conqueror Zverev into French Open last 32

After only nine singles matches were played after a Wednesday washout, 55 second round ties were scheduled on Thursday.

Amongst early winners were world number two Aryna Sabalenka who fired 27 winners past Japanese qualifier Moyuka Uchijima to win 6-2, 6-2.

'Blanket and tea'

The two-time Australian Open champion, a semi-finalist in Paris in 2023, has made at least the last four at her past six Grand Slams and is expected to be Iga Swiatek's chief rival in the Pole's quest for a fourth French Open title.

Sabalenka will take on close friend Paula Badosa of Spain for a place in the last 16.

"It's not the best weather. I feel like going back to the hotel. Getting a blanket and hot tea, and Netflix," said the Belarusian who had the benefit of playing under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier.

Fourth-seeded former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, the only woman to defeat Swiatek on clay this year, was similarly untroubled.

Rybakina eased past Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-4.

Former world number one Daniil Medvedev moved into the last 32 after his opponent Miomir Kecmanovic retired with injury while trailing the fifth seed 6-1, 5-0.

Casper Ruud, the runner-up for the last two years, takes on Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

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