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Djokovic Overcomes Wildcard Herbert in French Open First Round

Novak Djokovic, aiming for his fourth title in Paris and a record-breaking 25th Grand Slam triumph, overcame French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert, ranked 142nd, with a score of 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.

The 37-year-old Djokovic, who saw his long-time rival and 14-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal exit the tournament on Monday, entered the match under a cloud. This season, for the first time since 2018, he is without a title and has yet to reach a final. He also faced recent misfortunes, including being accidentally hit on the head by a metal water bottle in Rome and suffering stomach problems in Geneva.

Despite these challenges, Djokovic has advanced to the French Open quarter-finals or better every year since 2010. He will next face Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena for a place in the last 32.

Meanwhile, Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, a semi-finalist in 2023, overpowered Russian teenager Erika Andreeva with a dominant 6-1, 6-2 win in just 68 minutes under the roof on Court Philippe Chatrier, as heavy rain caused a five-hour delay around the grounds.

‘Tough Conditions’

World number two Sabalenka fired 27 winners past the 100th-ranked Andreeva and broke serve five times in a commanding display. “I’m trying to do well on clay; it is tough conditions here, but I enjoy playing here and I’m just trying to bring my best tennis every time—whatever the surface,” said Sabalenka.

The Belarusian has reached at least the last four in her past six Grand Slam appearances and is expected to be Iga Swiatek’s toughest rival in the Pole’s bid for a fourth French Open title.

In other matches, 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva, Erika’s younger sister, advanced to the fourth round by defeating Emina Bektas of the United States in straight sets.

Two-time runner-up Casper Ruud, who won clay-court titles in Barcelona and Geneva leading up to Roland Garros, cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Brazilian qualifier Felipe Meligeni Alves. “It’s great to be back here at Roland Garros,” Ruud said. “Hopefully, I can make it another good year here.” Ruud was defeated in straight sets by Djokovic in last year’s final, following a one-sided loss to Nadal in the 2022 final, and also lost the 2022 US Open final to Carlos Alcaraz.

Cornet’s Career Ends

Frenchwoman Alize Cornet’s career concluded with a straight-sets defeat by Zheng Qinwen in her record-extending 69th consecutive Grand Slam appearance. Cornet was no match for China’s Australian Open runner-up Zheng, losing 6-2, 6-1. Cornet, who made her debut at Roland Garros as a 15-year-old in 2005, has not missed a Grand Slam tournament since the 2006 US Open. She reached a career-high ranking of 11th in 2009 and enjoyed a surprise run to the 2022 Australian Open quarter-finals.

“I already cried yesterday watching Rafa,” said a tearful Cornet after seeing Nadal likely play his last match at the French Open on Monday.

On Court Suzanne Lenglen, former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina powered into the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Belgian Greet Minnen. Kazakh world number four Rybakina is the only player to defeat Swiatek on clay this season, in the Stuttgart semi-finals in April.

There was no celebration for Argentine qualifier Roman Andres Burruchaga, whose father Jorge famously scored the winning goal for Argentina in the 1986 World Cup final against West Germany. Ranked 144, the 22-year-old fell short in a three-set loss to experienced German Jan-Lennard Struff.

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