With Djokovic unable to defend his Australian Open title due to his refusal to get a COVID-19 shot, Spaniard Rafa Nadal broke a three-way tie for most Grand Slam titles with the Serb and Roger Federer by winning the Melbourne Park major earlier this year.
Still, a successful replay of his 2021 Roland Garros campaign, when he beat 13-time Roland Garros winner Nadal in the semi-finals, will elevate Djokovic alongside his great rival.
New victory in 3 sets for the defending champion ✅#RolandGarros | @DjokerNole https://t.co/0nggADZp1x
— Roland Garros (@rolandgarros) 1653497556000
On a windy day on the Suzanne Lenglen court, 35-year-old Djokovic stormed through the opening two sets, breaking Molcan’s serve three times without giving the Slovak a single chance on his own delivery.
Molcan, 24, coached by Djokovic’s longtime former coach Marian Vajda, was ranked 255th when he lost in straight sets to Djokovic in their only previous encounter in Belgrade last May, but since then , the southpaw climbed to a career ranking of 38th.
With nothing to lose, Molcan opened up his shoulders in the third set and with some aggressive all-court strikes managed to nullify Djokovic’s early advantage to force a tiebreaker.
But Djokovic then managed to step up a gear and converted his second match point when the southpaw found the net with a return.
“It was a tough game with a lot of winds, changes of direction,” he said on the court. “You have to be totally focused.
“I have a lot of respect for Alex. He has a game made for this surface. I hope this is the last time I play against Marian Vajda as my opponent’s coach.”
The top seed will next face Slovenia’s former world number 43 Aljaz Bedene for a place in the fourth round.
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