Daniil Medvedev still has issues with clay-court tennis, but the world number two cantered into the French Open third round with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win against Serbian Laslo Djere on Thursday.
The Russian, who reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros last year after four consecutive first-round exits, struggled at times but his elasticity eventually made up for his lack of natural ability to move around on the slow surface.
Medvedev found himself down a break in the first set but his brilliant defence helped him claw his way back both times on court Philippe Chatrier.
He will next meet 28th seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia.
Medvedev, who won the US Open last year and was runner-up at the Australian Open this season, arrived at the French Open with only one match on clay under his belt after undergoing a procedure to treat a hernia in April.
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A string of early unforced errors gave Djere a break in the first game, but Medvedev moved up a gear to win five games in a row and take control of the contest as his opponent appeared to be struggling physically.
The Russian broke decisively for 5-4 in the second set and there was no coming back for world number 56 Djere, who bowed out on the first match point when he netted a routine backhand.
Medvedev's win was enjoyed by the Roland Garros crowd, who have made him one of their favourites for his ability to speak almost fluent French - a talent he likes to play with.
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"I'm really disappointed, I thought you would speak French with the French crowd," he told courtside interviewer and three-time Roland Garros champion Mats Wilander.
"You have to improve in French... I'm joking," he added with a smile.
Commenting on the match, Medvedev said he was fortunate to escape with a straight sets win.
"Today he (Djere) played maybe better claycourt tennis but I managed to play better on the important points," the 26-year-old said.
"It's very difficult. I tried to make him play a little bit more. Maybe he had cramps or an injury and he took the ball early and so he either made a mistake or a winner. One break is nothing on clay and if he had broken back the pain would maybe have gone away," the Russian added.