Novak Djokovic put on a command performance for his toddler son, with the No. 1 reinforcing family pride with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 defeat of Henri Laaksonen in the French Open second round on Thursday.
Djokovic said that the performance over the Swiss – his 23rd consecutive win at a Grand Slam – marked the first time that his four-year-old Stefan had seen him play an entire match start to finish.
The victory in 93 minutes kept alive the top seeds’ hopes of winning his fourth straight Grand Slam title in a row.
Djokovic owns the 2016 title here; he also has kept a clean slate against lucky losers, with victories over all 10 he has faced.
Finnish-born Laaksonen’s loss keeps Switzerland from placing three men in the third round here for just the second time in the Open era; the first was in 2006 at the US Open, with Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli going through.
“I feel like I’m in a place where I was hoping I would get with my game. I worked very hard for it,” Djokovic said.
“I think everything started to really function well from Wimbledon last year. That was a huge springboard and confidence boost for what was coming up.”
2018 finalist Dominic Thiem successfully dealt with Nick Kyrgios-inspired antics – including underhanded serve and drop shots – before finally pulling out a 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-5 defeat of Kazakh Alexander Bublik.
Victory into the third round kept the fourth-seeded Austrian title tip in the chase a year after he lost the final here to Rafael Nadal.
Thiem made a late recovery as he trailed 2-5, 15-40 in the fourth set, saving set points for his try-anything opponent, who lost on a Thiem drop shot.
The win in two and a half hours earned Thiem a 50th victory at the Grand Slam level; he becomes the third Austrian to hit his half-century at the majors after Thomas Muster (77) and Jurgen Melzer (59).
“Today was very difficult, it was a tough matchup for me because there were almost no rallies.”
“Generally it was a strange match, I think. Somehow the fire never got there
“He almost served only first serves underarm serves. He gave me no rhythm at all. He did it very good, actually.
“There were not many baseline rallies. I was playing really bad once I got into the rally, which made it even more difficult.
“At the end, I’m only happy that I’m through this four sets.”
Fifth seed Alexander Zverev beat qualifier Mikael Ymer 6-1, 6-3, 7-6(3) to spoil the Grand Slam debut for the Swede.
After going through some rough times this season with narrow losses, the German broke through by winning Geneva last weekend – momentum which he is still feeling.
“I think I’m playing well again. I think a lot of tight matches have helped me in Geneva and here in the first round.
“I was swinging at the ball quite nicely and hitting it very aggressively, it was a very good match for me.” All in all, I think I’m starting to play really well.
Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas ended British participation as he put out Kyle Edmund 7-6(3), 6-2, 2-1, with the loser citing a knee injury which first bothered him late in 2018.
Gael Monfils beat French compatriot Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 while Borna Coric and Australian Jordan Thompson both advanced.
Naomi Osaka worked her way out of danger in another cliff-hanging French Open victory, with the top seed defeating former No 1 Victoria Azarenka 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
For the second time this week, the WTA No. 1 got away to a shoddy start, going down 0-4 before finally getting onto the scoreboard.
But after losing the first set and going down a break in the second, Osaka began to pull herself together, breaking back for 4-all on her way to levelling the afternoon.
The winner of the last two Grand Slams found her rhythm in the third to ease through with 51 winners.
Osaka took just under three hours of battle as she claimed her 16th straight victory at a major.
“I didn’t dip at all during this match, but she was just playing so well,” Osaka said. I was just waiting for her to get a little bit tired. I think she did towards the end of the second set and the third set.
“That’s when I just tried to really accelerate on how fast I was sort of winning the points.”
Osaka is bidding to become the first player to win a third major in a row after winning her first two Grand Slam titles. “Vika has the ability to hit winners. I don’t think the other girl hit that many winners,” she said.
“Today, I felt like I had to be more aggressive, that’s kind of hard to do while you’re down. You have to win a lot of games in a row.”
Defeat was a blow for Azarenka, who has now lost nine matches in a row against Top 10 opponents, notching her last major victim at the 2015 Australian Open when she defeated Caroline Wozniacki.
“I think I played very smart. I played the right spots, was playing aggressive,” Azarenka said.”I was doing everything that I was supposed to do. But I didn’t take some of my chances where I had them.
“The margin of opportunity was very small for both of us today.” Osaka will play in the third round against Katerina Siniakova, who spent more than three hours in defeating Maria Sakkari 7-6(5), 6-7(8), 6-3.
Third seed Simona Halep, the holder, continued her chase to try and win back-to-back title here for the first time since Justine Henin in 2007, posting a 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 defeat of Pole Magda Linette.
Swiss Belinda Bencic finished off a match interrupted by darkness the night before as she completed a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over German Laura Siegemund by playing the last two games in five minutes.
Australia’s Samantha Stosur, finalist here nine years ago, could not profit from 28 unforced errors off the racquet of Ekaterina Alexandrova, taking a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 loss in the second round.
Compatriot Ash Barty, seeded eighth, advanced past American Danielle Collins 7-5, 6-1, reaching the Paris third round for the first time.
Tenth seed Serena Williams was untroubled by Japan’s Kurumi Nara, who won her first main draw match of the season in the first round this week. Williams prevailed without drama, reaching the third round 6-3, 6-2 with 36 winners and 21 unforced errors.
” I’ve had a tough year since I twisted my ankle in Australia. Everything definitely feels a little bit harder than normal, but at the same time, I know that it’s going to get better.”