World number one Novak Djokovic kicked off his French Open campaign with a routine 6-2 6-4 6-2 win against American Tennys Sandgren yesterday 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.
Earlier, defending champion and world No. 3 Rafael Nadal of Spain began his quest for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title – and his 14th French Open crown – by overcoming Australian world No.63 Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(3) in the first round.
Nadal fired seven aces and won 81 per cent of his first-serve points to book a second-round clash against 34-year-old French veteran Richard Gasquet, ranked 53rd in the world.
Gasquet defeated country-mate Hugo Gaston, a wildcard, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
With the win against Popyrin, Nadal now has a win-loss record of 101-2 at the Roland Garros.
Another Frenchman, 14th seed Gael Monfils, won his first match at a Grand Slam since the 2020 Australian Open by getting the better of 38th ranked Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-4 in the opening round.
Monfils will next meet 22-year-old Swede Mikael Ymer.
Seventh seed Andrey Rublev of Russia lost a marathon three-hour, 46-minute battle against German world No. 42 Jan-Lennard Struff, who won 6-3, 7-6(6), 4-6, 3-6, 6-4.
The 23-year-old Rublev, who has made it to the quarter-finals in his last three majors, had reached the Monte Carlo final in the build-up to the French Open, scoring a big win over Nadal on the way.
Nadal’s win over Popyrin marked his 31st consecutive victory at Roland Garros, a streak dating back to 2015 when he lost to Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
Four-time defending champion, Nadal is aiming for his 21st Grand Slam title, which would break his tie with Swiss legend Roger Federer and make him the sole owner of the record for most Grand Slam titles in men’s singles.
Seventh seed Serena Williams is back in action on day four today, when she takes on unseeded Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu in the second round.
Williams, who is chasing an elusive 24th Grand Slam singles title, won her last major at the 2017 Australian Open.
The 39-year-old beat Irina-Camelia Begu 7-6(6) 6-2 in the first round, while Buzarnescu, whose best finish at a slam was reaching the last 16 at Roland Garros in 2018, also came through in straight sets against Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands.
Third seed Aryna Sabalenka will meet Aliaksandra Sasnovich in an all-Belarusian clash out on Court Suzanne Lenglen, while their compatriot, 15th seed Victoria Azarenka, faces Denmark’s Clara Tauson on Court Simonne Mathieu.
In the men’s draw, second seed Daniil Medvedev will look to build on his morale-boosting first-round victory when he takes on unseeded American Tommy Paul for the first time in his career.