Paris: Top seed and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic cruised into the French Open third round on Thursday and admitted it had been an emotional day playing for the first time in front of his four-year-old son.
Djokovic, bidding to become just the second man to hold all four Slams at the same time twice, cruised to a 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 win over Swiss lucky loser Henri Laaksonen.
Watching from the player’s box on Court Suzanne Lenglen was Djokovic’s son Stefan.
“It’s a very special day for me as it’s the first time in my life that I have played in front of my son,” said the 32-year-old Serb.
“He showed incredible patience to sit there for an hour and a half.
“Usually, he’s not that patient with tennis.”
Last July, Stefan joined in with the celebrations on Centre Court as Djokovic claimed a fourth Wimbledon title.
However, he was not allowed to watch the final against Kevin Anderson as the All England Club bans all children under the age of five from attending during a match.
Djokovic goes on to face Italian qualifier Salvatore Caruso, ranked 147, for a place in the last 16 in Paris.
Thursday was a lot more enjoyable for Djokovic than his last visit to Court Suzanne Lenglen in 2018 when he was knocked out in the quarter-finals by Marco Cecchinato.
His win over world No. 104 Laaksonen was his 23rd straight at the Slams as he reached the third round in Paris for the 14th consecutive year.
Caruso, 26, upset French 26th seed Gilles Simon 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the third round of a Slam for the first time.
After finding herself perilously close to an early Paris exit for the second time in as many rounds, world No. 1 Naomi Osaka rallied to defeat former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Osaka, 21, had been enjoying her best season on clay heading into the season’s second major but narrowly averted a first-round loss on the red clay of Roland Garros two days prior. After clawing back from that near debacle, Osaka confessed that she had never been more nervous, opening a Grand Slam as the No. 1 seed for the first time in her life.
On Thursday, Osaka staged something of a reprise of that uneven showing, having been handed the unenviable challenge of facing Azarenka, a former world No. 1 and two-time Australian Open champion who just four months ago re-entered the top-50 following the December 2016 birth of her son, Leo.
Azarenka, 29, returned to the pro tour seven months after childbirth but was subsequently involved in a protracted custody fight that limited her ability to travel and compete. While she lost precious ranking points in the interim, she proved on Thursday on Court Suzanne Lenglen that she has not lost her fighting spirit.
Osaka’s fight, however, was equally fierce.
Under chilly, overcast skies, the 43rd-ranked Azarenka bolted to a 5-1 lead but had a few hiccups before closing the opening set in 40 minutes.
The players held serve through the early-going of the second set until Azarenka broke in the fifth game, then double-faulted to get broken back. Osaka went on to level the match at one set apiece in what proved an exceptionally played, 74-minute second set, loaded with power, grit and shrewd tactics on both sides of the net.
Osaka raised her level and aggression further in the third set, yanking Azarenka out of position time and again by driving sharply angled groundstrokes to either side of the court, then following up with winners well beyond her reach. Osaka broke Azarenka twice and served for the match at 5-1, but Azarenka stood firm, winning the next two games.
But it only delayed the conclusion of a match that Osaka had seized.
In many ways, the match was a measure of Azarenka’s recent strides. When she last met Osaka on clay, at Rome in May 2018, Osaka needed just 74 minutes to rout her, 6-0, 6-3.
Serena Williams said on “everything feels harder” after her recent injury troubles despite thrashing Japanese qualifier Kurumi Nara to step up her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.
The 37-year-old cruised into the third round with a 6-3, 6-2 victory on Court Philippe Chatrier.
She had played only four matches heading into Roland Garros since collapsing to defeat late on in the Australian Open quarter-finals against Karolina Pliskova earlier this year.
“I have had a tough year since I twisted my ankle in Australia,” said Williams. “It’s just been really tough after that. So everything definitely feels a little bit harder than normal, but at the same time, I know that it’s going to get better.”
Williams will face Sofia Kenin for a last-16 spot, after her fellow American received a walkover following Canadian Bianca Andreescu’s withdrawal through injury.
Novak Djokovic (1), Serbia, bt Henri Laaksonen, Switzerland, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3; Salvatore Caruso, Italy, bt Gilles Simon (26), France, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4; Dusan Lajovic (30), Serbia, bt Elliot Benchetrit, France, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4; Alexander Zverev (5), Germany, bt Mikael Ymer, Sweden, 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (3); Dominic Thiem (4), Austria, bt Alexander Bublik, Kazakhstan, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5; Pablo Cuevas, Uruguay, bt Kyle Edmund (28), Britain, 7-6, 6-3, 2-1, ret; Leonardo Mayer, Argentina, bt Diego Schwartzman (17), Argentina, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5
Naomi Osaka (1), Japan, bt Victoria Azarenka, Belarus, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3; Katerina Siniakova, Czech Republic, bt Maria Sakkari (29), Greece, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3; Serena Williams (10), United States, bt Kurumi Nara, Japan, 6-3, 6-2; Ashleigh Barty (8), Australia, bt Danielle Rose Collins, United States, 7-5, 6-1; Monica Puig, Puerto Rico, bt Daria Kasatkina (21), Russia, 6-3, 6-1; Iga Swiatek, Poland, bt Qiang Wang (16), China, 6-3, 6-0; Amanda Anisimova, United States, bt Aryna Sabalenka (11), Belarus, 6-4, 6-2; Irina-Camelia Begu, Romania, bt Karolina Muchova, Czech Republic, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4; Ekaterina Alexandrova, Russia, bt Samantha Stosur, Australia, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4; Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, Spain, bt Sorana Cirstea, Romania, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3); Belinda Bencic (15), Switzerland, bt Laura Siegemund, Germany, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4