Novak Djokovic was booed by the French Open crowd but had the perfect comeback as he toyed with fans during his first round win.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic cruised into the second of the French Open as the world number one returned to Grand Slam tennis for the first time this year.
Djokovic thumped 99th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier.
The top-seeded Serb, who turned 35 on Sunday, is playing his first major since losing the US Open final last September.
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His attempt to defend his Australian Open title in January ended in chaos and controversy when he was deported from Melbourne after refusing to get vaccinated.
In a chilly and damp Paris on Tuesday (AEST), Djokovic took his record in first round matches at Roland Garros to 18-0 with his win over the 27-year-old Nishioka after converting eight of 18 break points.
Djokovic will next meet either Slovakia’s Alex Molcan or Federico Coria of Argentina.
Molcan, the runner-up in Lyon at the weekend, is coached by Marian Vajda — Djokovic’s former long-time coach.
Djokovic wasn’t exactly a fan favourite in the clash against Nishioka. At one stage his roar after winning a point was met by boos, prompting an even louder roar from the Serbian after winning the next point which led to — yep, you guessed it — even more boos!
In his post-match press conference, Djokovic addressed the controversial move by the WTA and ATP to remove ranking points from Wimbledon after the All England Club banned Russian and Belarusian players in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
The Serbian defended the move to strip the major of ranking points because he believes Wimbledon was in the wrong by barring players from competing. However, he still plans to compete in London.
“Collectively I’m glad players got together with ATP, the governing body of men’s tennis, and showed to the Grand Slam that when there’s a mistake happening, and there was from the Wimbledon side, then we have to show there’s going to be some consequences,” Djokovic said.
“Wimbledon is still Wimbledon, it was my dream as a kid, I never looked at it for points or prize-money, but I understand the group of players affected.
“There has to be some standards, criterias and mutual respect. It’s hard to say what is right, what is wrong. This is one of these situations where one will suffer more. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone.
“They (Wimbledon) still decided for this one without talking to anybody. I’m for the union, always was.”
Rafa goes through but big names shown the exit door
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal kicked off his quest for a 14th French Open title with a straight-sets win over Australian Jordan Thompson, but former world number one Naomi Osaka and defending champion Barbora Krejcikova tumbled out in the first round.
Nadal, on a quarter-final collision course with Djokovic, brushed Thompson aside 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 to improve his Roland Garros record to 106 wins and just three losses since his 2005 title-winning debut.
“I’m very happy with the victory today. I’m happy to get through in three sets,” said Nadal, seeded fifth.
“It’s a first round, a positive match for me. Straight sets but with significant room for improvement.”
The Spaniard, who last week downplayed concerns over the recurrence of a foot injury that plagued him in Rome, meets Corentin Moutet in round two after the French wildcard defeated 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka.
Osaka, the unseeded four-time Grand Slam winner, was knocked out earlier in the day 7-5, 6-4 by Amanda Anisimova — the same player who ended the Japanese star’s title defence at the Australian Open this year.
Osaka served eight double faults and committed 29 unforced errors on her return to Roland Garros, after withdrawing in 2021 when she refused to honour mandatory media commitments before revealing she had been suffering from depression.
“I thought I tried really hard, and I just feel like it was a bit unfortunate because I wasn’t able to play as many matches leading into this tournament,” said Osaka.
Anisimova, the 27th seed, reached the semi-finals in Paris three years ago.
As rain stopped play on the outside courts for two hours, Krejcikova followed Osaka through the exit door, going down 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 to 19-year-old Frenchwoman Diane Parry in her first match since February following injury.
The Czech world number two had yet to play on clay this season after being sidelined by an elbow problem.
“I just think I just collapsed physically and, I mean, it was tough because I didn’t play the matches,” said Krejcikova, who is set to drop out of the top 10.
Iga Swiatek, the favourite for the women’s title, stretched her winning streak to 29 matches by dispatching Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 6-0 in 54 minutes.
The 20-year-old Swiatek, who took over as world number one following Ash Barty’s shock retirement, has won her last five tournaments and is bidding for a second French Open in three attempts.
“Today was a pretty good match,” said Swiatek. “I love playing here even though the last couple of days it’s been raining and pretty dark.”
Swiatek is unbeaten since February and has the longest winning streak on the WTA tour since Serena Williams won 34 matches in a row in 2013.
“I’m pretty sure that it can end, but I just want to keep going. I’m sure some day my streak will stop,” Swiatek said.