Tennis: Novak Djokovic sees off Jarko Nieminen in entertaining French opener

Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during the first round of the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during the first round of the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS) - Tournament favourite Novak Djokovic beat Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen 6-2 7-5 6-2 on Tuesday, kicking off his quest for a first ever Paris trophy to add to his eight other grand slams.

He wobbled in the second set, having to pull out some of his sliding, rubber-limbed best to avoid going 5-1 down against the 33-year-old who had one previous victory against the Serb.

Once he saved a break point with a carved volley after a long exchange he reeled in his opponent who gave full value in an entertaining first-round encounter.

But with even his bright ochre shirt matching the Paris clay, the world number one looked comfortable on court Philippe Chatrier, breaking the Nieminen serve in the very first game of the match and rarely having to move into top gear.

87th-ranked Nieminen pleased the crowd when he saved two match points in the seventh game of the third set, but Djokovic made sure in the next game to extend his winning streak to 23.

By adding the French to his string of slams in Melbourne, Wimbledon and Flushing Meadow, Djokovic, who turned 28 last week, would join an elite group of just eight men in history to have won all four tournaments.

Djokovic, who will face either Gilles Muller or Paolo Lorenzi in round two, is in line for a quarter-final blockbuster against nine-times champion Rafa Nadal.