Djokovic untroubled as French Open vows to stop unruly fans – Sport

PARIS: Novak Djokovic reached the French Open last 32 for the 19th successive year on Thursday as Roland Garros organisers banned alcohol from the stands in an effort to counter growing complaints from players over disrespectful, rowdy fans.

Defending champion Djokovic cracked 43 winners past Spain’s 63rd-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena to canter to a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 win.

The three-time champion, seeking a record 25th Grand Slam title, goes on to face either Gael Monfils of France or Italian 30th seed Lorenzo Musetti.

“It was a difficult match against Roberto. He hit a lot of very good and precise shots,” said Djokovic. “The last game of the first set I played really well and started to play at a higher level. At the end of the match I was then playing very well.”

Also easing through to the third round on another rain-hit day in the French capital were women’s title contenders Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina.

However, the behaviour of fans at the tournament, which was brought into focus by Belgium’s David Goffin’s claim that he had chewing gum spat at him, prompted a series of measures to clampdown on loutish behavior.

“Alcohol has been allowed in the stadiums until now but that’s over,” tournament director Amelie Mauresmo told reporters.

However, alcohol including beer from mobile vendors, will still be sold around the grounds.

Mauresmo said fans will be ejected if they throw something at a player and that “umpires have tighter, even more precise instructions on keeping the crowd under control”.

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who effectively ended Rafael Nadal’s French Open career in the first round, defeated Goffin 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-2.

Zverev arrived in Paris on the back of winning the Rome Open title and is the only player to reach the semi-finals at the last three French Open tournaments.

On Friday, a Berlin court will hear an appeal by Zverev against a fine for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend. He received a 450,000-euro ($487,000) fine in October but appealed the ruling earlier this year, leading to a full trial. The 27-year-old is not required to attend the proceedings.

After only nine singles matches were played after a Wednesday washout, 55 second round ties were scheduled on Thursday.

Amongst early winners were world number two Sabalenka who fired 27 winners past Japanese qualifier Moyuka Uchijima to win 6-2, 6-2.

The two-time Australian Open champion, a semi-finalist in Paris in 2023, has made at least the last four at her past six Grand Slams and is expected to be Iga Swiatek’s chief rival in the Pole’s quest for a fourth French Open title.

Sabalenka will take on close friend Paula Badosa of Spain for a place in the last 16.

Fourth-seeded Rybakina, the only woman to defeat Swiatek on clay this year, was similarly untroubled. She eased past Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-4.

Former world number one Daniil Medvedev moved into the last 32 after his opponent Miomir Kecmanovic retired with injury while trailing the fifth seed 6-1, 5-0.

SWIATEK BACK FROM THE BRINK

Swiatek came back from the brink in Wednesday’s night session to down Naomi Osaka in a second-round blockbuster, saving a match point as she just avoided her earliest exit at Roland Garros.

With fans starved of action on a day when persistent rainfall washed out play on the outside courts, the two four-time Grand Slam champions served up a memorable battle on court Philippe Chatrier.

“This match was really intense, much more than I would have expected for a second round. I’ll be more ready next time. Naomi played some amazing tennis with a loose hand,” said Swiatek, the winner here in 2020, 2022 and 2023, after her 7-6 (7/1), 1-6, 7-5 victory.

Swiatek will next play 42nd-ranked Czech Marie Bouzkova or Jana Fett, the world number 135 from Croatia.

Their match was among those to fall foul of the weather as play on all but the main two courts was called off for the day.

US Open champion and third seed Coco Gauff defeated Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek 6-3, 6-4.

Men’s world number two and Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner made light work of French veteran Richard Gasquet, who at 37 is heading into the twilight of his career.

Italian Sinner prevailed 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 to book a third-round meeting with Russian Pavel Kotov.

Three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka bowed out to Kotov in four sets, while sixth seed Andrey Rublev eased aside Pedro Martinez in straight sets.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2024

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