Rafael Nadal made a statement on Wednesday at Roland Garros, losing only four games in his second-round victory. Top seed Novak Djokovic will try to respond with a message of his own on Thursday when he plays Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis.
Djokovic will take confidence from a comprehensive straight-sets victory in the first round against Mikael Ymer. The Serbian only lost five games in his win.
“If you keep on winning, obviously with every match that you win, your confidence level raises a notch higher,” Djokovic said. “Obviously these conditions are different than what we are used to here [at the] French Open. Everyone has been talking about it. The balls, the heavy clay, the cold weather. It all affects the play, of course.
“But I think it’s quite suitable to my style of the game… I think generally the game is there. I’m ready physically, mentally, emotionally to go deep in the tournament. Hopefully I can have another successful year here in Paris.”
The 2016 champion beat Berankis 7-6(2), 6-4 in his first match of the ATP Tour’s return at the Western & Southern Open. He leads their ATP Head2Head series 2-0.
Reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas did not have an easy first-rounder against Jaume Munar. Tsitsipas, who rallied from two sets down for the first time in that encounter, plays Pablo Cuevas on Thursday.
The Greek leads their rivalry 3-0, including a 7-5, 6-4 win against the Uruguayan shotmaker at last week’s Hamburg European Open.
“I have a lot of respect for him. He is a very difficult opponent to face, particularly on this surface,” Tsitsipas said of Cuevas in Hamburg. “He is a good friend and one of my idols growing up.”
Andrey Rublev (below), who like Tsitsipas rallied from two sets down in his opener, will face tricky Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina for the first time. Both players are Next Gen ATP Finals alumni. Davidovich Fokina showed his hard-court prowess at the US Open, where he made the fourth round. But he excels with the drop shot, which Djokovic said is a key in these conditions on clay.
“It’s going to be a very important shot in these conditions, because it’s just so heavy and so slow,” Djokovic said. “I think it’s a great variety shot, the drop shot. I think it’s important tactically to have it and to use it at the right time so that you can keep your opponent always guessing what is the next shot.”
Four Italians are already into the third round at Roland Garros, an Open-Era record. Seventh seed Matteo Berrettini can make it five when he plays South African Lloyd Harris for the first time. The 24-year-old made the third round on his tournament debut two years ago, losing against Dominic Thiem in four sets.
Ninth seed Denis Shapovalov is one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour, and he will try to keep his level high against Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena, whom he has never faced previously. The lefty, who made his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the US Open, is fresh off a run to the semi-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
One of the matches to watch will be 22nd seed Dusan Lajovic taking on two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson. The South African has won their two previous clashes, including a three-set victory in the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finals.