Tennis

Djokovic-Agassi partnership off to winning start

World No. 2 Novak praises new coach after first-round victory

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

The 12-time 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.

The 30-year-old Serb, 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.

With Agassi, sporting a black T-shirt and sunglasses, 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.

Djokovic kept his cool to earn the second set and pounced on the Spaniard's accumulating mistakes in the third set to seal victory on his first match-point.

With 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.

"I changed everyone (coaches). But I will not change my wife. My wife never."

Fourth seed Rafael Nadal also smoothly negotiated the potential stumbling block presented by Frenchman Benoit Paire yesterday, 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 Roland Garros title looked in imperious form as he steamed through the first set in under half an hour.

Paire, described prior to their encounter on Court Suzanne Lenglen as a dangerous opponent by Nadal, 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 time-out, the Spaniard took nine of the last 10 games to close out the match in just under two hours.

Fifth seed Milos Raonic also made light work of his Belgium opponent Steve Darcis, cruising to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory.

But local favourite Gilles Simon, the 31st seed, crashed out after losing 1-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 to Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili. - WIRE SERVICES.


MEN'S SINGLES 1ST RD RESULTS (SELECTED)

  • Novak Djokovic (x2) bt Marcel Granollers 6-3, 6-4, 6-2
  • Rafael Nadal (x4) bt Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-4, 6-1
  • Milos Raonic (x5) bt Steve Darcis 6-3, 6-4, 6-2
  • David Goffin (x10) bt Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2, 6-2, 6-2
  • Jiri Vesely bt Jack Sock (x14) 7-5, 7-5, 6-3
  • Roberto Bautista (x17) bt John Millman 6-2, 6-2, 0-6, 6-1
  • Steve Johnson (x25) bt Yuichi Sugita 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-7 (3/7), 6-3
  • Nikoloz Basilashvili bt Gilles Simon (x31) 1-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-1
  • Sergiy Stakhovsky bt Lu Yen-hsun 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).
tennisFrench Opennovak djokovic