French Open: Djokovic and Nadal come through first-round ties in straight sets

Men’s round-up: Monfils soaks up energy of crowds in Paris; seventh-seed Rublev beaten

 Novak Djokovic  hits a backhand during the French Open first-round  match against Tennys Sandgren  at Roland Garros. Photograph: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

Novak Djokovic hits a backhand during the French Open first-round match against Tennys Sandgren at Roland Garros. Photograph: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

 

World No 1 Novak Djokovic kicked off his French Open campaign with a routine 6-2 6-4 6-2 win against American Tennys Sandgren on Tuesday in the first men’s match to be scheduled in a night session.

With no spectators allowed on Philippe Chatrier court due to a 9pm local curfew, the Serbian went through the gears as he dispatched his opponent seemingly effortlessly.

Djokovic, who is chasing a 19th major title and looking to narrow the gap to 20-time Grand Slam champions Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, showed some signs of frustration in the second set but world number 66 Sandgren was never close to bothering him.

The third set was a mere formality as Djokovic, who won his only Roland Garros title in 2016, won five games in a row in what resembled a training session.

He next faces Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas on his way to a potential semi-final showdown with 13-time French Open champion Nadal.

Nadal came within one point of losing his first set at the French Open since 2019 as he opened his campaign for a 14th title in Paris with victory over Alexei Popyrin.

The young Australian went for broke against the third seed and had two set points at 5-3 in the third only to double fault on the first and shank a smash on the second.

That proved to be his final chance to land a meaningful blow, and Nadal went on to record a 6-3 6-2 7-6 (3) victory, setting up a second-round clash with old rival Richard Gasquet.

The Spaniard was not unduly worried, saying: “Of course I don’t want to lose the set at all, but that’s part of the game.

“You face a player who’s decided to go for every shot, so you are in trouble. If he’s having success like he did with his serve, then it’s difficult to have breaks, and then you are in a tricky position.

“But here, especially on clay, the matches are best-of-five, the matches are long, and it’s difficult to hold that kind of level for such a long time playing with this kind of risk.”

The men’s draw lost its second top-eight player, with seventh seed Andrey Rublev joining Dominic Thiem in heading through the exit door.

The Russian had reached the quarter-finals at the last three Grand Slams and is having another strong season. He fought back from two sets down to level the match against Jan-Lennard Struff but it was the German who came through 6-3 7-6 (6) 4-6 3-6 6-4.

France’s Gael Monfils celebrates after winning against Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images
France’s Gael Monfils celebrates after winning against Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images

The most crowd-pleasing moment of the day came on Court Suzanne Lenglen where Gael Monfils, who has been desperately short of wins since the start of the pandemic, defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 1-6 7-6 (6) 6-4 6-4.

It was almost possible to imagine that life was normal again as the crowd roared on its home favourite, with Monfils claiming just his second victory since last February.

The 34-year-old, one of tennis’ great showmen, broke down after losing his first-round match at the Australian Open but the emotions were very different here.

“It was incredible,” said Monfils. “Even though it was not like a full crowd, it was enough to make a decent spirit. I could feel their energy. I could feel that every day I’m working to be on the big stage like that.

“The main thing that makes me happy is it’s been a long time since I played in front of both of my parents. My brother. So that was very big for me. I was more me, a bit more fun. It was a better Gael Monfils today.”

Toni Nadal, coach of his nephew for so many years, had the unusual experience of seeing his charge lose in the first round, with young Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime going down in four sets to Andreas Seppi.

Ninth seed Matteo Berrettini defeated Taro Daniel 6-0 6-4 4-6 6-4 while Diego Schwartzman, Alex De Minaur and Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev, who is making his debut in the Roland Garros main draw, also won.

Men’s first-round results

(24) Aslan Karatsev (Rus) bt Jenson Brooksby (USA) 6-3 6-4 6-4, Mikael Ymer (Swe) bt Roberto Carballes Baena (Esp) 6-4 0-6 4-6 6-2 6-2, Aljaz Bedene (Slo) bt Adrian Mannarino (Fra) 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-2, James Duckworth (Aus) bt Salvatore Caruso (Ita) 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2, (14) Gael Monfils (Fra) bt Albert Ramos-Vinolas (Esp) 1-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 6-4, Facundo Bagnis (Arg) bt Benjamin Bonzi (Fra) 7-5 6-3 6-4, Jan-Lennard Struff (Ger) bt (7) Andrey Rublev (Rus) 6-3 7-6 (8-6) 4-6 3-6 6-4, Andreas Seppi (Ita) bt (20) Felix Auger-Aliassime (Can) 6-3 7-6 (10-8) 4-6 6-4, Philipp Kohlschreiber (Ger) bt Fernando Verdasco (Esp) 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 2-6 6-4, (10) Diego Sebastian Schwartzman (Arg) bt Yen-Hsun Lu (Tpe) 6-2 6-2 6-3, Richard Gasquet (Fra) bt Hugo Gaston (Fra) 6-1 6-4 6-2, Federico Coria (Arg) bt Feliciano Lopez (Esp) 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-2, (3) Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Alexei Popyrin (Aus) 6-3 6-2 7-6 (7-3), (9) Matteo Berrettini (Ita) bt Taro Daniel (Jpn) 6-0 6-4 4-6 6-4, Pablo Cuevas (Uru) bt Lucas Pouille (Fra) 6-3 6-1 6-3, Soon Woo Kwon (Kor) bt Kevin Anderson (Rsa) 7-5 6-4 2-6 7-6 (7-4), (1) Novak Djokovic (Ser) bt Tennys Sandgren (USA) 6-2 6-4 6-2

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