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Nadal, Djokovic cruise through at Roland Garros


Spain’s Rafael Nadal plays a shot against Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann during their first round match of the French Open at the Roland Garros in Paris. – AP/PTI
 PARIS, May 28: Defending champion Rafael Nadal got his bid for a record-extending 12th French Open title off to the perfect start by brushing aside German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, while World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was also a comfortable victor in the first round at Roland Garros on Monday.

Nadal, a 17-time Grand Slam champion, cruised to a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 victory on the rebuilt Court Philippe Chatrier to set up a clash with another German qualifier – world number 114 Yannick Maden – in round two.

Nadal had suffered three consecutive semifinal defeats earlier in the clay-court season, but appeared to find his best in an Italian Open title success sealed with victory over old rival Djokovic, while his French Open win-loss record now reads 87-2.

“It’s always amazing to play here, the new Chatrier is very nice,” the second seed said. “It’s been an important place in my career.

“I played a good tournament in Rome which was very important for my confidence. Now we’ll see.”

The 32-year-old Nadal raced into a 3-0 lead in the opening set before a second break of serve in the eighth game sealed it after just 40 minutes.

The second set was over in a flash as Nadal crushed nine winners past his beleaguered opponent.

The winning line honed into view when Nadal broke after a lengthy game to take a 2-1 advantage in the third, and the Spaniard completed the job on his first match point as world number 184 Hanfmann blasted long.

Djokovic laid down an early marker in his bid to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously for the second time, powering past Polish youngster Hubert Hurkacz.

The 15-time major champion impressed in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 triumph and will face Swiss lucky loser Henri Laaksonen in round two.

“I was very solid. I’m happy with my game today,” said the top seed.

“It’s a long tournament... But I just want to concentrate on my next match.” Twelve months ago, Djokovic dropped out of the world’s top 20 after a shock quarterfinal loss to Marco Cecchinato and even pondered skipping Wimbledon, but he has instead reclaimed his place at the top of the game.

The 22-year-old Hurkacz, who has claimed three wins over top-10 players this season, had no answer to the 2016 French Open winner, as Djokovic sealed a second-round spot without breaking sweat, hitting 27 winners.

Later in the day, 23-time women’s major champion Serena Williams takes on Russia’s Vitalia Diatchenko.

Earlier on Monday, former world number one Caroline Wozniacki collapsed to a 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 loss to Russian world number 68 Veronika Kudermetova in the first round.

The Danish 13th seed had retired injured from her two previous matches in the lead-up to Roland Garros, and fell away badly after a strong first set. – AFP

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