Novak Djokovic Untroubled At French Open As Fans Hit By Alcohol Ban

Novak Djokovic reached the French Open last 32 for the 19th successive year on Thursday as Roland Garros organisers banned alcohol from the stands in an effort to counter growing complaints from players over disrespectful, rowdy fans. Defending champion Djokovic cracked 43 winners past Spain’s 63rd-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena to canter to a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 win. The three-time champion, seeking a record 25th Grand Slam title, goes on to face either Gael Monfils of France or Italian 30th seed Lorenzo Musetti. Djokovic holds a 19-0 winning record against Monfils and has defeated Musetti four times in five meetings.

However, the Italian gave the Serb a major scare at the French Open in 2021 when he won the first two sets before having to retire injured in the decider.

“It was a difficult match against Roberto. He hit a lot of very good and precise shots,” said Djokovic.

“The last game of the first set I played really well and started to play at a higher level. At the end of the match I was then playing very well.”

Also easing through to the third round on another rain-hit day in the French capital were women’s title contenders Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina.

However, the behaviour of fans at the tournament, which was brought into focus by Belgium’s David Goffin’s claim that he had chewing gum spat at him, prompted a series of measures to clampdown on loutish behaviour.

“Alcohol has been allowed in the stadiums until now but that’s over,” tournament director Amelie Mauresmo told reporters.

However, alcohol including beer from mobile vendors, will still be sold around the grounds.

Mauresmo said fans will be ejected if they throw something at a player and that “umpires have tighter, even more precise instructions on keeping the crowd under control”.

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who effectively ended Rafael Nadal’s French Open career in the first round, defeated Goffin 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-2.

Zverev arrived in Paris on the back of winning the Rome Open title and is the only player to reach the semi-finals at the last three French Open tournaments.

On Friday, a Berlin court will hear an appeal by Zverev against a fine for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

He received a 450,000-euro ($487,000) fine in October but appealed the ruling earlier this year, leading to a full trial.

The 27-year-old is not required to attend the proceedings and insisted on the eve of the tournament that he “believes in the German system”.

On Thursday, he refused to further discuss the case.

“I have said everything before the tournament,” he said.

After only nine singles matches were played after a Wednesday washout, 55 second round ties were scheduled on Thursday.

Amongst early winners were world number two Sabalenka who fired 27 winners past Japanese qualifier Moyuka Uchijima to win 6-2, 6-2.

‘Blanket and tea’

The two-time Australian Open champion, a semi-finalist in Paris in 2023, has made at least the last four at her past six Grand Slams and is expected to be Iga Swiatek’s chief rival in the Pole’s quest for a fourth French Open title.

Sabalenka will take on close friend Paula Badosa of Spain for a place in the last 16.

“It’s not the best weather. I feel like going back to the hotel. Getting a blanket and hot tea, and Netflix,” said the Belarusian who had the benefit of playing under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier.

Fourth-seeded Rybakina, the only woman to defeat Swiatek on clay this year, was similarly untroubled. She eased past Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-4.

Former world number one Daniil Medvedev moved into the last 32 after his opponent Miomir Kecmanovic retired with injury while trailing the fifth seed 6-1, 5-0.

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