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Djokovic moves through gears to earn another Paris win

Novak Djokovic raises his arms and racquet in celebration
If Djokovic reaches the fourth round, he will equal Roger Federer's record of most Grand Slam match wins (369) [Getty Images]

Defending champion Novak Djokovic moved efficiently through the gears once again to beat Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena and reach the French Open third round.

Serbia’s Djokovic, 37, cruised to a 6-4 6-1 6-2 victory on another rain-soaked day in Paris.

It ensured he has reached the last 32 at the clay-court Grand Slam for the 19th consecutive year.

Question marks surrounded the three-time champion and his form when he arrived at Roland Garros following a turbulent year.

"There is always conviction and belief inside of me [that] I can win a Grand Slam," said Djokovic, who has not reached a final this season.

"That's the reason why I'm still competing at this level. That's why I'm here.

"At this age I wouldn't really be competing at the Slams and continuing to play professional tennis if I didn't believe that I possess the quality to go all the way to the title match."

Djokovic played arguably some of his best tennis of the year against 63rd-ranked Carballes Baena, but knows tougher tests lie ahead.

Like in his opening match against France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert, he was not fully stretched but improved his level to win again in straight sets.

Playing under the roof on Court Philippe Chatrier, Djokovic lost serve in the first game of the match before his game warmed up in the cool conditions.

One of the hallmarks of Djokovic’s success has been the ability to strike when it matters most.

After hitting straight back for 1-1, and being unable to convert any of four break points at 2-1, he upped his level again to break Carballes Baena when the Spaniard had to serve to stay in the set.

On the day when the French Open asked fans to show more respect, Djokovic also had to ask the umpire to ensure the crowd remained quiet during points.

That led to a chorus of whistles, but Djokovic responded with a smile as he took control of the second set.

He continued to dominate the rallies and slap winners, breaking five more times to set up a third-round match with 30th seed Lorenzo Musetti.

Italian Musetti defeated home hope Gael Monfils 7-5 6-1 6-4 in the night session on Court Philippe Chatrier later on Thursday.

On his form, Djokovic added: "I have to keep my expectations a bit lower.

"I'm being very conscious of the present moment and what needs to be done on a daily basis to build my form - then peak at the right time when it matters the most."

Zverev sails into third round with routine win

Alexander Zverev
Zverev has never won a Grand Slam tournament [Getty Images]

Alexander Zverev booked his place in the third round of the French Open with a routine straight-set victory over Belgium's David Goffin.

The German sixth seed continued to underline his title credentials with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-2 win.

Zverev has reached the semi-finals in his last three appearances at Roland Garros and is considered a favourite this year after winning the Italian Open earlier this month.

He will face Dutch 26th seed Tallon Griekspoor next.

After criticising the crowds earlier in the week, Goffin received a warmer reception on Court Suzanne Lenglen on Thursday.

But the world number 115, after offering Zverev just one break point opportunity in the first set, faltered in the opening set tie-break.

Zverev seized control from there, breaking early and again at 4-2 in the second set, while he earned successive breaks in the third before serving out the victory.

The 27-year-old has insisted a court case over domestic abuse allegations will not distract his title bid at the French Open.

Zverev has denied the charges, with a hearing set to begin on Friday in Germany.

Elsewhere on Thursday, Daniil Medvedev progressed after his opponent Miomir Kecmanovic retired from their match.

Russian men's fifth seed Medvedev was leading the second-round contest 6-1 5-0 when Serbia's Kecmanovic decided he could not continue.

Kecmanovic, 24, shook his head in the direction of the chair umpire after losing his serve for a third time in the second set, with 55 minutes on the clock.

Medvedev, the 2021 US Open champion, will play Czech Tomas Machac next.

Medvedev, 28, whose best French Open performance was a run to the quarter-finals in 2021, had hit 26 winners and just six unforced errors in an impressive display against his 57th-ranked opponent.

Meanwhile Casper Ruud, finalist at the past two French Opens, needed five sets to beat Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

The Norwegian seventh seed broke twice in the decider to win 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 6-3 4-6 6-3.

Bulgarian 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov managed to secure his spot in the third round before rain disrupted play on the outdoor courts, beating Hungary's Fabian Marozsan 6-0 6-3 6-4.

Australia 11th seed Alex de Minaur reached the third round of the French Open for the first time with a 7-5 6-1 6-4 win over Spaniard Jaume Munar, while 13th seed Holger Rune of Denmark needed a final-set tie-break to beat 22-year-old Flavio Cobolli of Italy 6-4 6-3 3-6 3-6 7-6 (10-7).