Paris | Djokovic leads the big guns into the last 16
Novak Djokovic survived a scare in his opening round but progressed through to the last 16 as did Dominic Thiem following a marathon encounter with Milos Raonic while Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas continued to improve his form as did Stan Wawrinka and Rafa Nadal following a tight opening set.
I made a lot of mistakes in the first set, but fair play to him Novak Djokovic
Top seed Djokovic had to save two set points in the first set before beating the 97th-ranked Moutet 7-6(2) 6-4, a Lucky Loser from France who came in to replace Richard Gasquet.
The 32-year-old will play either Britain’s Kyle Edmund the third round as he continues his bid for a record-extending fifth Bercy title as well as attempting to hold off Nadal for the season ending No.1 spot in the rankings.
“It was my first time playing against Moutet; he has a lot of talent. I made a lot of mistakes in the first set, but fair play to him,” said Djokovic.
“To be frank, I haven’t felt very well on court for a few days, and I hope to be in better shape tomorrow.”
Djokovic, who was beaten by Karen Khachanov in last year’s final, found himself in a spot of bother when Moutet broke his serve in the seventh game before saving four break points to seize a 5-3 lead.
But the home hope saw two set points come and go in the following game, with Djokovic quickly taking advantage to break back and level the set.
The Serbian took control as the opener entered a tie-break and Moutet smashed a ball into the crowd in anger as his opportunity for an upset looked to have disappeared, with his opponent cruising through the breaker.
Djokovic did let one break slip after leading 4-1, but closed out victory on his first match point with a forehand winner.
Earlier in the day, Thiem booked his spot in the last 16 by edging out Milos Raonic in a marathon encounter.
Thiem had to dig deep to get past Raonic 7-6(5) 5-7 6-4 as the Canadian powered down 30 aces in a thunderous serving display.
But Thiem saved nine of 10 break points to stay with his opponent before clinching the crucial breakthrough in the ninth game of the third set.
“It was unbelievable today, his serve,” admitted the Austrian following his two hours and 38-minute battle.
“He served almost all his serves between 205 (kph) and 230. When you have your chances, you feel under so much pressure because you know you won’t have many.”
Thiem, who reached the semi-finals at Bercy last year, will face Grigor Dimitrov next after the Bulgarian’s 7-5 6-3 win over 12th seed David Goffin.
Three-time Grand Slam title-winner Stan Wawrinka improved his career record against former US Open champion Marin Cilic to 13-2 with a 7-6(3) 7-6(5) success to set up a last-16 clash with Nadal.
The Spaniard and second seed moved into round three a 7-5 6-4 victory over French wildcard Adrian Mannarino.
Nadal, who married 11-days ago, wasn’t at his best against the world number 43 Mannarino, but did enough to win with relative comfort.
The 19-time Grand Slam champion, who has never won the tournament but does hold a record 35 Masters titles, will hope to improve in the third round against the Swiss.
Nadal can secure the year-end top ranking ahead of Novak Djokovic for a fifth time by winning the trophy on Sunday but is guaranteed to leapfrog the Serbian at the top of the rankings next week ahead of the ATP Tour Finals in London.
World number seven Tsitsipas continued his return to form with a 7-6(3) 6-3 victory over American Taylor Fritz.
He will take on Australia’s Alex de Minaur in round three after the teenager’s 7-6(2) 7-6(1) victory over ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut.
Canadian youngster Denis Shapovalov saw off Monte Carlo Masters winner Fabio Fognini 3-6 6-3 6-3 to book a third-round tie with sixth seed Alexander Zverev and end the Italian’s hopes of qualifying for the O2.
Chile’s Cristian Garin edged out former runner-up John Isner 7-6(5) 7-6(4) and will next face Jeremy Chardy after the Frenchman’s shock win over world number four Daniil Medvedev on Tuesday.