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Novak Djokovic won his first Grand Slam match of the season, dropping just four games in a 6-4 6-1 6-0 win over world No 99 Yoshihito Nishioka at the French Open. The world No 1 is the defending champion in Paris and got his campaign to pick up a second-successive title off to a dominant start, needing just an hour and 59 minutes to book his spot in round two.
Djokovic was returning to Court Philippe-Chatrier 51 weeks after being crowned the French Open champion, in what was the first of the French Open’s brand new night sessions. It was also his first Grand Slam match of the year after he was deported from the country on the eve of the Australian Open at the start of the season. The world No 1 came in with a 2-0 head-to-head against Nishioka and went on to extend his winning record against the world No 99.
But it wasn’t the start the defending champion would have wanted, as he was forced to save three break points in a lengthy opening game to hold serve. Nishioka managed to stay with the top seed until he was serving at 2-3, when Djokovic took the opportunity to pounce and secure the first break of the match. He had another break point with the Japanese player serving at 2-5 down which was also a set point, but Nishioka held on and forced the Serb to close out a 6-3 set himself after 52 minutes.
All the momentum was now with the two-time champion in Paris, as he broke in the first game of the second set. After saving a break point on his own serve, Djokovic continued his run of games and broke twice more to serve for the set at 5-0, but a rare second-set error from the top seed got Nishioka on the board for the first time in the set. But things quickly went back in the 35-year-old’s favour as he broke to take the second 6-1 in 36 minutes.
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His dominance continued into the third and final set, as this time he was able to do what he couldn’t in set two and close out a 6-0 set to win the match 6-3 6-1 6-0 in just under two hours, much to the delight of his fans on Court Philippe-Chatrier, picking up right where he left off in Rome after winning the recent Italian Open title.
The world No 1 could now find himself in an unusual position in the second round, as he will face the winner of tomorrow’s match between Fedrico Coria and Alex Molcan. Djokovic recently split with his long-time coach Marian Vajda, who had been with him for almost his entire career, and Vajda is now working with young Slovak Molcan.
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He could come up against his former coach for the first time in his career if in-form Molcan can win his own opening match to book a meeting with the top seed in the second round. And things are only set to get more difficult for the reigning champion after being drawn in the top half of death with his fellow favourites for the title.
Djokovic is in the same quarter as 13-time champion Rafael Nadal, meaning they will meet as early as the quarter-finals if both make it there. And Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev both loom in the other quarter of the same half.
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