Tennis: Djokovic keeps French Open title defence on track with Molcan win

Djokovic celebrates after winning against Alex Molcan of Slovakia. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS (REUTERS) - World number one Novak Djokovic completed a solid 6-2 6-3 7-6(4) victory over Slovakia's Alex Molcan in the second round of the French Open on Wednesday (May 25) to keep his title defence and quest for a record-equalling 21st Grand Slam on track.

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," he 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."

The top seed will next meet Slovenia's former world number 43 Aljaz Bedene for a place in the fourth round.

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