Paris: Novak Djokovic returned to the court on Wednesday, cruising past Tomas Etcheverry 6-3, 6-2 and strengthening his hold on top spot in the rankings after his two closest rivals both lost at the Paris Masters.
Second seed Carlos Alcaraz tumbled out against qualifier Roman Safiullin late the previous evening and earlier on Wednesday, Daniil Medvedev, seeded third, threw another Paris tantrum as he lost 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/2) to Grigor Dimitrov.
Djokovic playing in his first individual tournament since winning the US Open in September broke Etcheverry, an Argentine ranked 31 in the world, in the eighth game of the first set and twice in the second, to win in one hour and 24 minutes.
After beating Daniil Medvedev in the final in New York on September 10, the 36-year-old Djokovic dashed back from the US Open to help Serbia into the Davis Cup quarter-finals on September 15.
He then skipped the ATP Tour’s return to China, instead spending time with his family.
Djokovic will next play Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor.
Earlier Medvedev threatened to stop in the second set if the crowd kept whistling him, although he later said he was determined to win over the Paris fans.
Medvedev has had a series of run-ins with Parisian fans. In May, he gestured for the crowd to shut up at Roland Garros and has complained on previous visits to Bercy.
After Dimitrov took the first set on Wednesday, Medvedev broke in the sixth game of the second set and led 5-2.
When the Bulgarian broke to 5-5, Medvedev threw his racket which brought whistles from the crowd. That further upset the Russian.
“I’m not going to play when they whistle,” Medvedev shouted at the umpire.
“They’re stupid! If they don’t whistle, I’ll play!”, Medvedev said before telling the crowd. “I play guys, but shut your mouths, okay!”
After a time violation warning from the umpire, Medvedev resumed and edged the tiebreak on his first set point.
“When I throw my racket, I’m allowed to get whistled at, it’s a bad reaction,” he later told the press conference. “On the other hand, if I serve, and they whistle and applaud at the same time, it’s a bit weird”.
“That’s the public at Bercy, everyone knows it, not everyone likes playing here. I played much better at Bercy when there was nobody there,” he said, mentioning his victory in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I’ll be back, and I’ll try to do my best,” he said, adding he hoped to “turn the crowd around”.
In the final set, Medvedev saved six match points before forcing a tiebreak in which he won two points before Dimitrov finally prevailed.
Greek seventh seed Stefanos Tsitsipas saved six of seven break points and dodged four set points as he beat Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
Hubert Hurkacz hit his 1,000th ace of the season as he beat Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 6-2. The Pole became the first player to hit 1,000 aces in a season since Americans John Isner, the all-time ace leader, and Reilly Opelka in 2019.
Dutch qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp beat 12th-seeded Tommy Paul 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 to end the American’s chances of squeezing into the top eight for the ATP Finals in Turin.