Novak Djokovic opened his pursuit of a record 23rd Grand Slam title in style Monday, defeating Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (1) in the first round of the French Open.
Djokovic, the third seed, was up two sets and serving at 5-4 in the third when the American converted his second of five break opportunities to even the match at 5-5. Both held serve to set up the tiebreak, which Djokovic dominated.
The Serbian was efficient in the two-hour, 26-minute match, which boosted his win total on the clay courts at Roland Garros to 86, trailing only Rafael Nadal's 112.
Djokovic hit 41 winners compared to 22 unforced errors, while his opponent struck 25 and 34, respectively. Djokovic, the winner in Paris in 2016 and 2021, hit 10 aces and won 82 percent of the points on his first serve, with Kovacevic victorious on only 67 percent.
In other action, 14th-seeded Cameron Norrie of Great Britain needed five sets and three hours, 33 minutes to fend off Benoit Paire of 7-5, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
With the home crowd behind him, Paire was up 4-2 in the final set before Norrie notched four straight wins.
"It was an amazing match and all credit to Benoit, he played really well," Norrie said. "It was a great atmosphere. Thank you for the support for both of us. It was amazing. I was fortunate for it to go my way in the fifth set, but I am pleased to be through after a really tough one."
"I think all the training makes it worth it for moments like this, playing a fifth set at Roland Garros," Norrie added. "I am feeling good physically and I wanted to make the points long."
Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime wasn't as fortunate, however, as he was knocked out by Italian Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. Fognini converted eight of his nine break points in the two-hour, 17-minute contest.
Two more matches went five sets in early play Monday, with Canadian Denis Shapovalov and Diego Schwartzman of Argentina advancing to the second round.
Shapovalov, the No. 26 seed, took out Brandon Nakashima 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3. And Schwartzman recovered from two sets down to eliminate Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Miralles 1-6, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-0, 6-4.
Other winners included 18th seed Alex de Minaur of Australia, Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut and Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev.
--Field Level Media