Novak Djokovic got a routine, straight-sets win over Alex Molcan at the French Open, needing two hours and 16 minutes to beat the world No 38 6-2 6-3 7-6(4). But the circumstances were anything but ordinary, who was playing against his ex-coach for the first time in his career, with Marian Vajda now working with the 24-year-old following a recent split with Djokovic. With the win, the reigning champion keeps his title defence alive and progresses to the third round.
Djokovic was facing Molcan for the second time, but it was the first time in his career that he was playing against his former coach Vajda. The world No 1 parted ways with his coach of 15 years at the end of last season, announcing the decision in March, and admitted it “wasn’t easy” when he saw Vajda’s new charge in his section of the draw.
The defending champion in Paris appeared his usual dominant self as he quickly took a 4-1 lead after breaking in the fourth game of the match but he seemed slightly more subdued than usual, having previously confessed that he “wasn’t looking forward to” playing against Vajda. But Djokovic didn’t let it affect his game, as he broke again in the final game of the set to take it 6-2 in 30 minutes, losing just three points on his serve in the set.
The second set followed a similar pattern to the first, with both men staying level until 3-2 on the Slovak’s serve, when the 20-time Major champion broke to lead by a set and 4-2. Molcan was forced to stay in the set at 2-5 down again but this time managed to hold on, producing a stunning passing shot winner which was almost replicated by Djokovic in the next point during the game.
JUST IN: Zverev booed by French Open crowd after flipping out at his own team
The Serb was happy to be asked to serve out the set himself, taking the second set almost as quickly as the first in 40 minutes. He seemed to be cruising to a victory when he took his third break point at 1-1 to lead by two sets and a break, but Molcan finally set up his first to break points of the match and got himself back level at 2-2 with an error from the Serb, as Vajda could be seen in conversation in the Molcan camp.
The world No 38 backed it up with a hold to lead 3-2 in the third set and things remained level until 4-4, when the top seed carved out a break point to give himself the chance to serve for the match, but Molcan saved it and fired an ace down the court to hold for 5-4. It was Djokovic’s serve under threat as he went 15-30 down at 4-5 but he managed to hold on and stay in the set at 5-5.
Emma Raducanu fears she has target on her back after French Open loss
Osaka mentality slammed as Japanese star leads Wimbledon boycott
Andy Murray launches passionate Wimbledon defence amid boycott fears
The world No 1 could be seen shrugging at his camp in frustration as the points kept going Molcan’s way, as the Slovak guaranteed himself at least a tiebreak when he held to lead 6-5. The recent Lyon finalist pressured the Serb by taking him to deuce on his serve but Djokovic forced tiebreak at 6-6 as the wind started to interfere with the match.
The reigning champion took the first mini-break of the tiebreak and changed ends with a 4-2 lead over his ex-coach’s new charge. And a ball in the net from Molcan gave Djokovic match point at 6-3 in the breaker, but the top seed put the ball in the net himself to blow his first chance to close out the match.
He sealed his second match point to progress to the third round with a 6-2 6-3 7-6(4) victory. Djokovic will now face Aljaz Bedene in his quest to retain his French Open crown, after the Slovenian defeated Pablo Cuevas in four sets earlier on Wednesday.