Novak Djokovic admitted on Monday he was still struggling with his health, with the third-seed resolutely refusing to tout his title chances at the French Open.
The Serb came through a scratchy effort over Evgeny Korolev 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 in his opening match, but the two-time Roland Garros semifinalist has an uphill battle on the clay during the fortnight.
“I haven’t played a real match since Rome (April 30, quarterfinals against Fernando Verdasco) this year,” said Djokovic, who skipped the Madrid Masters to try to regain his health.
“I knew it was going to be a little bit different feeling stepping on the court and playing a match than practising in last two weeks.
But right now I feel physically fit and ready to go the distance.” Djokovic also admitted that regaining his form has been a battle. “This year has been a struggle for me because it was the first time that I had such a strong reaction,” he said of his pollen allergy.
“Once the spring started I couldn’t do too much about it, so it’s (the allergy) still a little bit active, but it’s much less than it was in last two months. “I’m happy that the tough period is behind me, and now I can focus on the court on what I do and try to do it best. For next year I will prepare myself better health-wise.”
“I wouldn’t think about winning a title, it’s very far away for now,” he confessed. “It’s just the start of the tournament.
“Federer and Nadal will be obviously the two best players in the world and two biggest favourites to win the title.
“But if I’m able to play my best and if I’m able to maintain that good level of the performance, I think I have a good chance to go far in the second week.”
Fourth-seed Andy Murray achieved his fourth career comeback from two sets to love down in a four-hour-plus overhaul of Frenchman Richard Gasquet 4-6, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.
Murray ended with an ace against the player who won the clay title at the weekend at the Nice warm-up event.
Chilean Fernando Gonzalez beat Thiago Alves of Brazil 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4; French hero Gael Monfils fought to go past German Dieter Kindlmann 6-3, 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2.
Stanislas Wawrinka picked up a second win on the day for Switzerland with his defeat of Jan Hajek 6-1, 6-3, 6-3, while Americans John Isner and Taylor Dent both took surprising wins.
Australian Carsten Ball made an heroic recovery from two sets to love down, posting a win over German Philipp Petzschner 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 7-5, 9-7 in just under four hours.
Women’s top-seed Serena Williams was disgusted with her lack of game in a win over Swiss Stefanie Voegele, with the top-seed barely beating the teenager in the 54-minute opening set before overcoming five breaks between the pair in the second for a 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 escape.
“I definitely didn’t feel good about it. At least I won — I think I’m still in the tournament. That’s what matters,” said the American, adding she was pleased with “nothing, really, just to be honest.” Williams had 10 aces and 28 winners while striking 22 errors against her 76th-ranked opponent.
Third-seed Caroline Wozniacki played through a nagging ankle problem to advance into the second round over Russian Alla Kudryavtseva, 6-0, 6-3.
Elena Dementieva, seeded fifth, was untroubled by Croatian Petra Martic, 6-1, 6-1. Polish number eight Agnieszka Radwanska belted Brit Elena Baltacha 6-0, 7-5.
Keywords: French Open