French Open 2017

Tennis: Agassi giving Djokovic a fillip

Novak Djokovic celebrating with the ball boys after his second-round French Open win. He will next play Diego Schwartzman.
Novak Djokovic celebrating with the ball boys after his second-round French Open win. He will next play Diego Schwartzman.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

World No. 2 carves out confident win as his coach, the retired American, looks on

PARIS • He may be carrying a little more around the middle than in his Roland Garros pomp, but the star appeal of Andre Agassi was undeniable at the French Open yesterday as his new charge Novak Djokovic romped to a second-round win.

Almost as many cameras were trained on the retired American tennis star as were trained on Djokovic throughout the latter's 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 dismantling of Portugal's Joao Sousa.

Reigning champion Djokovic teamed up with 1999 champion Agassi in a dream-team player-coach combination just before the start of the tournament.

Already the signs were good on Court Suzanne Lenglen. There was a spring in the step of the Serbian world No. 2 that had seemed missing in recent months.

"Well, that's what these 'super coaches' give you," former world No. 1 and three-time French champion Mats Wilander told Reuters.

"They help you with all the little things. Obviously, they know what it is like, they know what you need to be a champion."

Djokovic looked every bit a champion as he controlled his opponent throughout, with Agassi closely monitoring from courtside, a look of concern occasionally clouding his mien. But the American need not have worried.

Having raced through the first set in a little over half an hour, second seed Djokovic established his rhythm and then just pulled away for the victory.

The Serb, however, refused to be carried away.

"In the first and second rounds, I'm the favourite, but it's sport and nothing is predictable," the 30-year-old said. "I think the first two sets went very well, but the third was more difficult."

He will next play Argentina's Diego Schwartzman, who made the third round of a Major for the first time, for a place in the last 16.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova's comeback was cut short when she suffered a straight-sets defeat by American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the second round.

The 15th seed, who had only returned this week after a five-month injury absence following a stabbing by a burglar last year, littered the court with errors to lose 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (5-7).

However, the Czech declared her comeback mission a success despite visibly lacking match practice.

"I was surprised how I played even though I lost," she said.

"I feel good. I did not have as much time to prepare as I wanted. But I feel happy that I am back.

"In the coming weeks it will be business as usual, focusing on the tennis and improving my game.

"I did not have any expectations here. I came here for my comeback. The mission is completed and I am happy."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2017, with the headline 'Agassi giving Djokovic a fillip'. Print Edition | Subscribe