French Open round-up: Novak Djokovic battles into fourth round
2016 winner drops set against Roberto Bautista Agut, Caroline Wozniacki progresses
Novak Djokovic is into the fourth round of the French Open. Photograph: Christophe Archambault/AFP
Novak Djokovic dropped his first set, and smashed his first racket, at this year’s French Open — but still battled through to the fourth round.
The former world number one cut a frustrated figure for long periods of his clash with Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, the 13th seed.
When he missed a simple forehand during the second-set tie-break, Djokovic pounded his racket against the ground before stomping off to unwrap a new one.
The Serbian is seeded 20th following his recent absence through injury, which necessitated a minor operation to ease an elbow problem earlier this year.
Yet the elbow certainly did not seem to be troubling Djokovic as his racket bore the brunt of his irritation.
Nevertheless, the 2016 Paris winner eventually found a way past Bautista Agut, winning 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.
“It was a big point,” Djokovic explained, “And I managed to come back from being down in the tie-break, and 6-6. If the ball went over it would be a winner, and I hit the top of the net.
“In these kind of circumstances, sometimes emotions get the worst out of you or the best out of you, whatever you want to call it.
“I’m not proud of doing that, to be honest. I don’t like doing that. But at times, it happens.”
Djokovic’s route deeper in the tournament may have been made a little easier, too, after fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov bowed out.
The 12-time grand slam winner will instead meet another Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco, in the last 16.
Bulgarian Dimitrov won the ATP Tour Finals in London last year, but his wait for a grand slam title will go on after a 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-4 loss to the 30th seed.
Verdasco has now reached the fourth round at Roland Garros seven times, but he has yet to progress any further.
Second seed Alexander Zverev, who along with Djokovic is seen as one of the few genuine challengers to 10-time champion Rafael Nadal this year, was taken to five sets for the second time.
In the match of the tournament so far, the 21-year-old German was up against it trailing 2-1 to Damir Dzumhur.
Amid some spectacular rallies Dzumhur was playing shots far above his ranking of 26, and he also colliding with a ball boy as both went to collect a high loose ball.
The Bosnian forced two match points in the deciding set but he put the second, a simple forehand winner, into the net and Zverev survived before going on to register a 6-2 3-6 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 victory in just under four hours.
Elsewhere Caroline Wozniacki raced into the fourth round of the French Open with a crushing victory over home hope Pauline Parmentier.
The feeling among the locals was that Parmentier, the world number 75, had the tools to trouble the second seed and maybe even send her packing.
Instead the 32-year-old found herself facing the dreaded double bagel with Wozniacki up 6-0 5-0 after only an hour.
At deuce Parmentier found a winner to earn a game point and raised her arms in mock celebration.
She actually went on to win the next three games, but it was only delaying the inevitable as Dane Wozniacki went through 6-0 6-3.
“I feel pretty good. I think I played some solid tennis, and I’m happy to be through to the fourth round here again,” said Wozniacki.
“You know, it gets harder and harder with every match. I’m happy to be here.”
There was a shock in round three as fourth seed Elina Svitolina tumbled out.
The Ukrainian, twice a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, went down 6-3 7-5 to Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania, seeded 31.
“Today, really, I was off and couldn’t find my rhythm, my game. I was really struggling,” said Svitolina.