Tuesday 20 March 2018

Agassi era off to flyer as Djokovic progresses

Novak Djokovic returns fire during his first round match a Roland Garros. Photo: Getty Images
Novak Djokovic returns fire during his first round match a Roland Garros. Photo: Getty Images

Karolos Grohmann

Defending champion Novak Djokovic made a winning French Open start under new coach Andre Agassi, cruising past Spain's Marcel Granollers 6-3 6-4 6-2 in the first round.

The 12-times grand slam champion parted company with his entire coaching team earlier this month after a string of disappointing results before inviting American great Agassi to work with him during the French Open.

Agassi, however, will only stay for the first week of the tournament due to prior obligations, Djokovic said.

The 30-year-old Serbian, without a tour title since January, found little resistance from Granollers, grabbing two breaks early on in the first set as he chased the 77th-ranked Spaniard around the court.

"It was different for me being here this time because being defending champion gave me a lot of relief," Djokovic said. With Agassi quietly sitting in the stands along with the Serb's entourage, it was a similar story early in the second set with the world No 2 returning everything Granollers tried to throw at him.

He again went 4-1 up before a wobble saw him fail to convert eight set points at 5-3.

"A set up and 4-1 up, when I had him on the ropes I just played very bad games," he said. "That's the only thing that wasn't great for me."

Djokovic, though, kept his cool to earn the second set and capitalised on the Spaniard's accumulating mistakes in the third set to seal victory on his first match point. With eight-times grand slam champion Agassi making a fast exit from the stands at the conclusion of the match, Djokovic heaped praise on his new coach.

"It is an incredible honour and good luck to have him with me on the team," Djokovic said. "Every day is special with him. I am learning something every day."


Meanwhile, Rafael ­Nadal smoothly negotiated the ­potential stumbling block presented by Frenchman Benoit Paire, launching his bid for a 10th French Open trophy with a largely routine 6-1 6-4 6-1 win.

The heavy favourite for the title looked in imperious form as he steamed through the first set in under half an hour.

Paire, played with more freedom in a closer second set as the Spaniard lost his edge. Trading baseline rallies, they exchanged breaks to leave the Frenchman leading 4-3. But Nadal then pulled clear and, with Paire periodically clutching his stomach after a medical timeout, the Spaniard took nine of the last 10 games to close out the match.

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