Novak Djokovic had every reason to smile in Paris after getting one over his former confidante following their shock break-up.

Reigning champion Novak Djokovic eased into the third round of the French Open and Alexander Zverev saved a match point as he recovered from two sets down, but Maria Sakkari became the fifth women’s top-10 seed to exit.

Djokovic made comfortable work of Slovakia’s Alex Molcan, the world number one winning 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) against a player trained by his long-time former coach Marian Vajda, the man who inspired most of his 20 Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic fired 10 aces and 40 winners past his 38th-ranked opponent and will next face Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene for a place in the last 16.

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“It was a real pleasure to play on Court Suzanne Lenglen. I don’t have a lot of opportunities to play here,” said Djokovic after reaching the third round for a 17th straight year.

“I could feel the support. There were tricky conditions today with a lot of wind coming in different directions.

“It was a real pleasure to play on Court Suzanne Lenglen. I don’t have a lot of opportunities to play here,” said the 35-year-old.

“I could feel the support. There were tricky conditions today with a lot of wind coming in different directions.

“So I had to stay focused and stay patient.

“I have a lot of respect for Alex, he’s a specialist on this surface.”

The tennis world was shocked in March when it was revealed Djokovic and Vajda had parted ways after working together for 14 of the past 15 years. Earlier this month, the Serbian’s former coach revealed Djokovic’s desire to trim down his entourage and focus on grand slams was part of the reason the pair split up.

Djokovic had the last laugh over his ex-mentor, with Vajda’s new pupil Molcan unable to prevent the 35-year-old from continuing his charge in Paris.

Third seed and 2021 semi-finalist Zverev battled back from the brink against Argentina’s Sebastian Baez to avoid his earliest loss at a major in three years.

Zverev overcame Baez 2-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-5 after three hours and 36 minutes. He will play Brandon Nakashima of the US for a place in the last 16.

“There’s not much you can do, you just have to find a way,” said Zverev, who fended off a match point as he served at 4-5 in the final set.

“The greats – Roger (Federer), Rafa (Nadal), Djokovic – always find a way in the most difficult moments.”

It was the third comeback from a two-set deficit in Zverev’s career. He trailed fellow German Oscar Otte 2-0 in the opening round at Roland Garros a year ago before his run to the last four.

However, Greek fourth seed Sakkari crashed out after going down 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4) to Czech world number 81 Karolina Muchova.

Sakkari was a point away from reaching the final at Roland Garros last year. Her defeat left the women’s draw without four of its top six seeds as she followed defending champion Barbora Krejcikova, Anett Kontaveit and Ons Jabeur through the exit door.

Muchova will next play 27th seed Amanda Anisimova, who made the last four in Paris three years ago.

“It’s very special, she’s an amazing player. It was a big fight, a little bit of a test and challenge for me and I’m happy I took it the way I did,” said Muchova.

Former Grand Slam champions Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka also advanced to the third round.

Kerber, who won her first clay title in six years on the eve of the French Open, defeated French wildcard and 2020 junior champion Elsa Jacquemot 6-1, 7-6 (7/2) as she seeks the only Grand Slam missing from her collection.

The German 21st seed next plays Aliaksandra Sasnovich, the Belarusian who knocked out US Open champion Emma Raducanu 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

“I think the last week was really important for me to get the title,” former number one Kerber said of her Strasbourg triumph.

“I had a lot of confidence. It’s great to be back here and I hope I can still play a few more matches.”

Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open winner, beat 2014 Roland Garros semi-finalist Andrea Petkovic 6-1, 7-6 (7/3). She meets Swiss 23rd seed Jil Teichmann for a place in the fourth round.

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