PARIS (REUTERS) - Defending champion Novak Djokovic survived his first stern test at the French Open on Friday (June 2), as he came from two sets to one down to overcome world number 41 Diego Schwartzman 5-7 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-1 and move into the last 16.
The second seed, now joint third on the all-time list for most wins at Roland Garros with 58, was on the backfoot for much of the match, allowing the Argentine to dictate the pace from the baseline.
He broke early to go 3-1 up in the first set but instead of cruising through he was broken twice with Schwartzman, in top form on clay this season, snatching the set as dark clouds gathered above Court Philippe Chatrier.
“Before the match I felt well, I was optimistic and I had played two good matches (in the tournament),” Djokovic said.
“I expected a difficult game with a lot of baseline exchanges so congratulations for a big battle to Diego because he played really well.”
The Serb recovered to secure the second set but with 42 unforced errors in the first three sets alone, including a backhand that flew long to hand Schwartzman the third, he struggled for consistency.
With new coach Andre Agassi watching from the stands and under threat of becoming the first defending champion to lose before the round of 16 since Juan Carlos Ferrero in 2004, Djokovic took the initiative.
He chased Schwartzman along the baseline with punishing groundstrokes and kept his cool, despite a time violation and a warning, to take the match to a decider.
Two more breaks put him in control and a third gave him a spot in the last 16, where he will face either France’s Lucas Pouille or Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain.