x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

French Open: Novak Djokovic is home and dry before rain

Organisers forced to cancel matches for the second time, causing a backlog of fixtures

WOrld No 1 Novak Djokovic in action at the French Open.
WOrld No 1 Novak Djokovic in action at the French Open.

Novak Djokovic had a simple solution to the rain showers that continued to play havoc at Roland Garros yesterday - win quickly.

But the weather got into the works of former women's champion Li Na, as she was bundled out at a soggy French Open.

World No 1 Djokovic needed just 86 minutes to dispose of Argentina's Guido Pella, winning 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 to reach the third round after a long wait to get on court.

He has waited even longer to win this particular title. The French title remains the lone grand slam to elude the Serbian star.

China's Li, winner in 2011, was bundled out by American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, a player whose grand slam appearances are usually memorable more for her outlandish outfits.

The sixth-seeded Li was twice forced off court during lengthy rain delays and when the third instalment of the match began, she lost seven games in a row during a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 defeat.

Slate-grey clouds hung over Roland Garros for much of the day with tournament organisers forced to cancel matches for the second time in three days, throwing the whole schedule in disarray.

Four second-round matches be played today, when the third round is scheduled to start.

Among those who did not finish their scheduled match was Spain's defending champion Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic was also interrupted in mid-flow, although such was his dominance of Pella, ranked 101st in the world, that his opponent could have been excused for opting to remain in the locker room after yet another shower moved away.

After some closely fought rallies early on, Djokovic, trying to complete his career grand slam here after falling in the final last year to Nadal, decided enough was enough.

Placing the ball almost at will in the corners, he carved through the next 11 games, showing no mercy with the threat of further rain lurking on the Parisian skyline.

Djokovic will face more of a test in the third roun, where he will face 26th seed Grigor Dimitrov, who became the first Bulgarian man to reach that stage of a grand slam since tennis turned professional in 1968.

Dimitrov, who stunned Djokovic on clay in Madrid this year, put out French wild card Lucas Pouille 6-1, 7-6, 6-1, ending the run of the last remaining teenager in the men's draw.

It has been unseasonably cool throughout the week and four hours were lost to rain on Tuesday.

In the women's bracket, 18th-seeded Jelena Jankovic defeated Spain's Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-0, while China's Zheng Jie was a 6-3, 6-1 winner over American Melanie Oudin.

Jankovic won 12 games in a row after losing the first three, though she predicted that Muguruza, 19, will enjoy a bright future.

The Serb said: "I think she's a great up-and-coming player. She hits the ball very hard, very flat. And especially in the beginning of the match, she gave me a lot of trouble."

Mattek-Sands's win over the 2011 French Open champion was the biggest head-turning development.

Since winning her lone major title, Li has lost in the first or second round at four of the eight grand slam events staged since.

Ninth-seeded Sam Stosur wrapped up a 6-4, 6-3 win over France's Kristina Mladenovic before the rain began to fall.

Stosur, who will meet Jankovic next, is a particularly dangerous player on clay and reached the French Open final in 2010.

But it has not always been like that, and the Australian said: "I didn't play on clay at all until I was 15. I went on a junior trip to Europe, and we had five weeks, I think, on clay.

"I didn't win a match and I hated every second of it."