Novak Djokovic serves up the charm after he joins Andy Murray, Rafa Nadal in next round
World’s top men advance at Roland Garros, but Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber is first to crumble at clay tournament
Novak Djokovic treated the Roland Garros crowd with some great tennis shots on Tuesday and his charm offensive continued after the match.
Interviewed on court by former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, the top-ranked Serb pleased the fans on Court Philippe Chatrier with a few words in French.
Djokovic is craving a career grand slam at the French Open after losing in the final three times over the past four years.
A favourite of fans in Paris, he has dramatically improved his level of French in recent years.
“These two weeks might be the most important in the whole season [for me],” Djokovic said after defeating 95th-ranked Lu Yen-hsun of Taiwan 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.
Djokovic was in complete control, broke his opponent seven times, and closed the match with a drop shot. He joined his main rivals Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray in the second round.
Earlier, world number two Murray avoided a huge first-round upset, but Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber crashed out after losing to Kiki Bertens.
Murray, a three-time Roland Garros semi-finalist, recovered from a two-set deficit to overcome 37-year-old Radek Stepanek 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 on Court Philippe Chatrier.
The second seed had been trailing by two sets to one, but up a break in the fourth when play was suspended on Monday due to darkness.
The Scot duly returned to complete the job after making the crucial breakthrough at 5-5 in the decider to set up a second-round encounter with 164th-ranked French wildcard Mathias Bourgue.
“He’s always been extremely difficult to play,” said Murray after a ninth career comeback from two sets down.
“He was playing drop shots, hitting the ball very flat, it was very difficult to get into a rhythm. That’s credit to him and the way he played.”
While Murray toiled, there were no such problems for nine-time champion Rafael Nadal who extended his record at Roland Garros to 71 wins against just two losses.
The fourth-seeded Spaniard made quick work of 100th-ranked Sam Groth, taming the Australian’s powerful serve with eight breaks in a resounding 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 win.
However, Kerber became the tournament’s first major casualty as Dutchwoman Bertens consigned the German third seed to a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 defeat.
“The first rounds are always tough in the tournament, especially for me, but, yeah, what can I say? It happens,” lamented Kerber, who was hampered by an ongoing shoulder problem.
“She’s a tough opponent. I was ready. But, yeah, at the end she made the important points.”
Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych, a former French Open semi-finalist, cruised to a straight-sets win over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil.
Austria’s Dominic Thiem struggled initially against Inigo Cervantes, dropping the opening set to the Spaniard, but the 13th seed rallied to claim a 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 victory.
Thiem, who retained his Nice title over the weekend, is the only player alongside Nadal with multiple clay-court tournament wins this season.
John Isner fired 40 aces to advance 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (14-12), 7-6 (9-7), 7-5 over Australian John Millman, while Bernard Tomic put recent struggles behind him to dispatch American Brian Baker in three sets.
Swiss eighth seed Timea Bacsinszky swept past Spanish lucky loser Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-3, 6-1, while 12th seed Carla Suarez Navarro needed three sets to beat Czech qualifier Katerina Siniakova.
Former runner-up Sam Stosur overcame Misaki Doi of Japan 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, but Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 champion, bowed out in straight sets to French 26th seed Kristina Mladenovic.
Jelena Jankovic also made an early exit, the Serbian 23rd seed dumped out by Tatjana Maria as the German won for the first time in Paris.
Additional reporting by Reuters