French Open: Djokovic kickstarts title defence with hard-fought win over Herbert

Sports Wednesday 29/May/2024 08:18 AM
French Open: Djokovic kickstarts title defence with hard-fought win over Herbert

Paris : Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic kickstarted his French Open title defence with a hard-fought, challenging victory over French player Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the first round on Tuesday night.

Djokovic, still searching for his best form, defeated the home favourite 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-4 to start his campaign. Herbert's heavy kick serve and sumptuous touch almost got the best of Djokovic, until the multi-time grand slam champion bounced back in the tie-break and won. After a drop shot-volley combo that helped Djokovic secure a 3-0 lead during the tie-break, the Serbian was unstoppable and Herbert's baseline game proved to be a letdown.

"In the moments when it mattered I think I delivered, played a great tie-break, stayed focused," Djokovic said in his post-match presser as quoted by ATP's official website.

"I am glad that I started the way I started, the way I felt on the court. Compared to the previous weeks of tournaments I played, I felt good, and better. So I am moving in a positive direction. It is just the beginning," he added.

Djokovic will have to secure a spot in the title clash at least in order to retain his top spot in the ATP Rankings and hold off Jannik Sinner. His next challenge will be Roberto Carballes Baena in the second round.

Djokovic is still searching for his first title in 2024 and improved his season stats to 15 wins and six losses (overall) and seven wins and three losses (on clay surfaces). The 37-year-old made history by becoming the oldest French Open champion last year and a record-extending 25th Grand Slam title will be perfect for Djokovic to get his form and ongoing season on the best track.

This year, Djokovic's best clay court runs were during the Monte Carlo and Geneva Open, where he reached the semifinals.

Earlier, Alex de Minaur wrapped up a 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 victory against Alex Michelsen in the first round to kick-start his French Open 2024 campaign in style on Tuesday.

After play finally got underway on Court Simonne-Mathieu following a brief halt due to rain, the 11th-seeded Australian raced past Michelsen to seal his second-round spot at the clay-court major.

De Minaur converted eight of 13 break points to advance to face either Jaume Munar or Roberto Bautista Agut.

Earlier in the day, Casper Ruud claimed a convincing 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory against Brazilian Felipe Meligeni Alves in the first round.

Ruud, a 12-time tour-level titlist, will lock horns with either Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or qualifier Valentin Vacherot.

Ruud, who has been a finalist in Paris the last two years, is hoping to advance this week and win his first major championship. The seventh seed has won 36 matches thus far this season on the ATP Tour, including championship runs in Barcelona, and Geneva last week, and his first trophy above the ATP 250 level.