It turned out to be quite a wild Wednesday as the second round began at the French Open. Novak Djokovic was the star attraction and the former champion wasn’t on par but managed to get through a tough Jaume Munar 7-6(1), 6-4, 6-4.
Rafa’s protege Munar hung right with Djokovic, breaking the Serb three times. But the Spaniard’s serve was broke five times and in the key moments, Djokovic was just a little better.
“Credit to him for fighting and playing well,” said Djokovic. “I went through my ups and downs, and [I’m] not really satisfied with the performance. I just played [well] enough in the right moments to win the match. So hopefully my level will increase and will get better in the next match.”
Djokovic will next face Roberto Bautista Agut on Friday.
Djokovic wasn’t the player top name to struggle. Several others did, but survived.
Alexander Zverev, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov all found themselves down two sets to one but all three managed to escape in five.
Zverev, who’s had his struggles, outclassed Dusan Lajovic in the last two sets to win it 2-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 for his first 5-set win on the dirt.
“This is important, because I’m still in the tournament – so I have a chance to still play here,” said Zverev. “Obviously Dusan, at the moment and during the clay-court season, he’s [been] playing unbelievable. I knew it was not going to be an easy match. I didn’t play my best the first three sets, I thought. Once I found my range and rhythm, I felt good out there.
“I’m very happy to be here with a five-set win, somebody who has beaten great opponents during the clay court season. Obviously, it was not my best. I know that. There are still a few things I need to work on. Actually, in the fourth and fifth sets, I really felt good out there even though I was a little bit tired and a little bit fatigued. My serve started working better. I started playing from the baseline much better.”
Nishikori had a date with the unpredictable Benoit Paire. And the Frenchmen had the better of Nishikori early, but Kei wore Paire down in the end 6-3, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
In the match of the day, Grigor Dimitrov, who’s also struggled in Paris, was in trouble against Jared Donaldson, but thanks to some cramping at the finish line from the American, Dimitrov survived 6-7(2), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 in four hours 20 minutes.
At the end, Donaldson was resorting to serving underhanded, with mixed success (winning one point, but losing another). He cramped away a break but Dimitrov couldn’t serving it out at 8-7. But he closed it out on his next chance.
“It’s great to win a match in five sets. I think it stays with you, you keep it, and especially on clay and out here,” Dimitrov said. “It was one of those matches that I didn’t play my best, but I managed a way to win. And when one thing wasn’t going well, the physical part was great.
Gael Monfils and David Goffin advanced to a Friday showdown. Fernando Verdasco also won as did Gilles Simon who eliminated Sam Querrey.
In the all-Marco affair, the feel-good story of Trugelitti came to an end at the racquet of Cecchinato 6-1, 7-6, 6-1.
In the conclusion of three first round matches, the three Frenchmen won as Jeremy Chardy got past Tomas Berdych in five, Julien Benneteau kept his final French Open hopes alive and Pierre-Hugues Herbert defeated Peter Polansky.
Two matches were suspended. Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas was stopped due to light after Thiem took a two set to one lead and Lucas Pouille couldn’t hold a break lead in the third and the Brit took to force a fourth at 9:42pm.
Tomorrow, Rafael Nadal returns against Guido Pella. Juan Martin del Potro is back to face Benneteau and big men John Isner, Kevin Anderson and Marin Cilic are in action. Denis Shapovalov continues his French run.
THURSDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE
Court Philippe-Chatrier – Play starts at 11am
Marin CILIC (CRO)  vs Hubert HURKACZ (POL)
Not before 12pm
Lucas POUILLE (FRA)  vs Cameron NORRIE (GBR) To be completed: Pouille leads 6-2 6-4 5-7
Simona HALEP (ROU)  vs Taylor TOWNSEND (USA)
Julien BENNETEAU (FRA) vs Juan Martin DEL POTRO (ARG) 
Serena WILLIAMS (USA) vs Ashleigh BARTY (AUS) 
Court Suzanne-Lenglen – Play starts at 11am
Garbiñe MUGURUZA (ESP)  vs Fiona FERRO (FRA)
Malek JAZIRI (TUN) vs Richard GASQUET (FRA) 
Rafael NADAL (ESP)  vs Guido PELLA (ARG)
Shuai PENG (CHN) vs Caroline GARCIA (FRA) 
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