Novak Djokovic dropped his first set, and smashed his first racket, at this year’s French Open — but still battled through to the fourth round.
The former world number one cut a frustrated figure for long periods of his clash with Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, the 13th seed.
When he missed a simple forehand during the second-set tie-break, Djokovic pounded his racket against the ground before stomping off to unwrap a new one.
The Serbian is seeded 20th following his recent absence through injury, which necessitated a minor operation to ease an elbow problem earlier this year.
Yet the elbow certainly did not seem to be troubling Djokovic as his racket bore the brunt of his irritation.
Nevertheless, the 2016 Paris winner eventually found a way past Bautista Agut, winning 6-4 6-7 (6/8) 7-6 (7/4) 6-2.
“It was a big point,” Djokovic explained, “And I managed to come back from being down in the tie-break, and 6-6. If the ball went over it would be a winner, and I hit the top of the net.
“I’m not proud of doing that, to be honest. I don’t like doing that. But at times, it happens.”
Djokovic’s route deeper in the tournament may have been made a little easier, too, after fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov bowed out.
The 12-time grand slam winner will instead meet another Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco, in the last 16.
Bulgarian Dimitrov won the ATP Tour Finals in London last year, but his wait for a grand slam title will go on after a 7-6 (7/4) 6-2 6-4 loss to the 30th seed.
Second seed Alexander Zverev, who along with Djokovic is seen as one of the few genuine challengers to 10-time champion Rafael Nadal this year, was taken to five sets for the second time. In the match of the tournament so far, the 21-year-old German was up against it trailing 2-1 to Damir Dzumhur.
Amid some spectacular rallies, Dzumhur was playing shots far above his ranking of 26, and he also collided with a ball boy as both went to collect a high loose ball. The Bosnian forced two match points in the deciding set but he put the second, a simple forehand winner, into the net and Zverev survived before going on to register a 6-2 3-6 4-6 7-6 (7/3) 7-5 victory.
In the women’s, Caroline Wozniacki raced into the fourth round with a crushing victory over home hope Pauline Parmentier 6-0 5-0.
“I feel pretty good. I think I played some solid tennis,” said Wozniacki.
Fourth seed Elina Svitolina tumbled out 6-3 7-5 to Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania, seeded 31.
Serena Williams continues her bid for a 24th grand slam title against German 11th seed Julia Goerges today.
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