French Open 2022: Djokovic beats Molcan; Zverev saves match point en route to third round
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 top seed, Djokovic will next meet Slovenia's former world number 43 Aljaz Bedene for a place in the fourth round.
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 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.
Zverev saves match point in five-set thriller en route to third round in Paris
Alexander Zverev overcame a woeful start to reach the third round of the French Open, saving a match point in a 2-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 7-5 victory over up-and-coming Argentine Sebastian Baez on Wednesday.
The German third seed survived a late fightback from the world number 36 and screamed his lungs out when Baez sent a forehand wide on match point.
Alexander Zverev in action against Sebastian Baez at Roland Garros 2022.
It was the fifth year in a row that Zverev, who achieved his best result at Roland Garros when he reached the semi-finals last year, had to go through a five-setter in one of the opening two rounds.
"I lost a US Open final being two sets up and I've learned from it. He's unbelievable and he's got a bright future ahead of him," Zverev said of his opponent, who won his maiden ATP title in Estoril earlier this month.
"I just tried to fight. You have to win these kind of matches, when you're not playing well because you can't always play well."
Zverev looked out of sorts in the opening set, allowing his opponent to race to a 5-1 lead practically unchallenged on a windswept court Philippe Chatrier.
He fell 4-0 down in the second before starting to find his range and while it was not enough to save the set, the German carried the momentum into the third.
Clicking into top gear, Zverev went 3-0 up and won five games in a row to open a 2-0 lead in the fourth set, which he won comfortably.
The 21-year-old Baez looked completely overwhelmed, but then fought tooth and nail to break for 4-2 in the decider as Zverev's unforced errors crept up again.
The German broke straight back with a backhand winner down the line but faced a match point at 5-4, which he saved with a big first serve.
Zverev then broke for 6-5 as Baez fired a backhand wide and he played a solid last game to set up a third-round encounter with American Brandon Nakashima or Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor.