PARIS (Reuters) -World number one Novak Djokovic is pleased with his performance level so far at the French Open and believes everything is heading in the right direction in his title defence and quest for a record-equalling 21st Grand Slam.
Djokovic expertly managed some tricky conditions at Roland Garros on Wednesday to complete a solid 6-2 6-3 7-6(4) victory over Slovakia’s Alex Molcan to set up a third-round meeting against Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene.
“Well, so far so good. I’m pleased with the way I’m feeling on the court, the way I have been striking the ball,” he told reporters.
“Also today was under these kind of challenging conditions and playing against a specialist on clay, someone that is a tricky opponent and coming off from the final (ATP 250 event in Lyon) last week.
“I’m just glad to play the way I have been playing the first two rounds. Everything is going in the right direction.”
With Djokovic unable to defend his Australian Open title due to his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Spaniard Rafa Nadal broke a three-way tie for the most Grand Slam titles with the Serb and Roger Federer by winning the Melbourne Park major at the start of the year.
Yet a successful rerun of his 2021 Roland Garros campaign, when he beat 13-time French Open winner Nadal in the semi-finals, will lift Djokovic alongside his great rival.
On a blustery day on Court Suzanne Lenglen, the 35-year-old Djokovic cruised through the opening two sets, breaking Molcan’s serve three times without giving the Slovakian a single opportunity on his own delivery.
The 24-year-old Molcan, trained by Djokovic’s former long-time coach Marian Vajda, was ranked 255th when he went down in straight sets to Djokovic in their only previous meeting in Belgrade last May but since then the left-hander has climbed to a career-high ranking of 38th.
With nothing to lose, Molcan opened up his shoulders in the third set and with some aggressive all-court hitting managed to cancel out Djokovic’s early advantage to force a tiebreak.
But Djokovic then managed to go up a gear and converted his second matchpoint when the left-hander found the net with a return.
“It was a difficult match with a lot of winds, changing direction,” Djokovic, who hit 40 winners to 19 unforced errors, said on court. “You have to be fully focused.
“I have a lot of respect for Alex. He’s got a game that’s made for this surface. I hope it’s the last time I play against Marian Vajda as coach of my opponent.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly, additional reporting by Julien Pretot; editing by Toby Davis)