PARIS: Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray reached the French Open third round Thursday, setting up intriguing clashes with next generation Australians, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios.
Top seed Djokovic survived a worrying injury scare before coasting to a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win over Gilles Muller of Luxemburg.
Djokovic will face 19-year-old Kokkinakis who saved three match points to beat fellow Australian Bernard Tomic 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 8-6.
Djokovic’s win over 33-year-old Muller was his 24th consecutive victory this year as he took another step towards a first ever Roland Garros title and a career Grand Slam.
However, he needed a medical timeout leading 5-4 in the second set for treatment on what appeared to be a right groin strain.
It didn’t affect him too much as he quickly wrapped up the second set with a service game to love.
He eventually wrapped up the tie on Court Suzanne Lenglen after just an hour and 45 minutes, hitting an impressive 35 winners.
“The groin is nothing major. It wasn’t pleasant as the conditions changed. The court was slippy and I jammed the hip a little bit,” said the Serb.
Kokkinakis, making his Roland Garros debut on a wildcard, came back from 2-5 down in the decider to defeat his 27th-seeded compatriot Tomic.
He fired 19 aces and 71 winners despite taking a medical timeout after a nasty fall.
“Novak barely misses a ball, he’s mentally tough, lightning quick on court. The list goes on,” said Kokkinakis.
“He just does everything so well and so professional. I guess that’s why he’s had such great success.”
Coric in landmark win
Murray, the third seed, went into the last 32 with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Joao Sousa of Portugal.
The Scot took his record to 12-0 on clay this season and he will meet 20-year-old Kyrgios who enjoyed a walkover into the third round when scheduled opponent Kyle Edmund of Britain withdrew with a stomach injury.
“I realised towards the end of the second set he raised his level and I had to tell myself to weather the storm and his level would drop,” said Murray.
Defending champion and sixth seed Rafael Nadal, chasing a 10th Paris title, enjoyed a 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 breeze past Spanish compatriot Nicolas Almagro.
Nadal will next face Andrey Kuznetsov after the Russian defeated Austria’s Jurgen Melzer 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (7/0), 7-5.
“I am very happy. I played a great match and was very solid,” said nine-time champion Nadal who has now defeated Almagro 13 times out of 14.
“There were long games, the match was not as easy as the score may suggest.”
The 28-year-old Nadal now has 68 wins at the tournament and just one loss.
Croatia’s Borna Coric also struck a blow for the next generation when the 18-year-old became the youngest player to make the third round since Marat Safin in 1998.
Coric, the world 46 who beat Nadal in Basel in 2014 last year and Murray in Dubai this year, saw off 33-year-old Spaniard Tommy Robredo, a four-time quarter-finalist 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
Seventh seed David Ferrer reached the third round for the 14th successive year, beating Spanish compatriot Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 6-2, 6-1.
US Open champion Marin Cilic reached the third round for the fourth successive year.
The ninth-seeded Croatian fired 38 winners in a 7-6 (7/3), 6-1, 6-1 win over Italian qualifier Andrea Arnaboldi.
Cilic will face Argentine 23rd seed Leonardo Mayer who beat Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (1/7), 6-1 for a place in the last 16.
Two other seeds to fall Thursday were American number 16 John Isner who was beaten 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 by France’s Jeremy Chardy and 31st seeded Viktor Troicki, defeated 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 by Italy’s Simone Bolelli.
This year’s second round featured a record 19 men over the age of 30.
But 33-year-old German Benjamin Becker won’t be going any further after he was forced to withdraw from Friday’s scheduled third round clash with Japan’s fifth seed Kei Nishikori because of a right shoulder injury.
Nishikori will face either Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic or Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia for a place in the quarter-finals. – AFP