PARIS, France, Oct 30 – Novak Djokovic defied illness to survive a scare against French lucky loser Corentin Moutet and reach the third round of the Paris Masters on Wednesday, while fifth seed Dominic Thiem and Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas also progressed.
Top seed Djokovic, locked in a battle with Rafael Nadal for the year-end world number one spot, had to save two set points in the first set before beating the 97th-ranked Moutet 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.
The 32-year-old will play Britain’s Kyle Edmund on Thursday in the last 16 as he continues his bid for a record-extending fifth Bercy title.
“I don’t feel health-wise 100 percent in the last couple of days, but it is what it is,” said Djokovic, who was struggling with a sore throat.
“It’s not the first time I didn’t play at the really high level. Lots of errors, especially in the first set.
“It affects your energy, your vitality on the court. Obviously it’s not ideal, but in these kind of circumstances you just have to accept it and do everything that you can to recover.
“So I’m hoping and I’m believing I can feel better every day.”
Nadal, who is guaranteed to usurp Djokovic at the rankings summit next week ahead of the ATP Tour Finals in London, gets his campaign underway later on Wednesday against home wildcard Adrian Mannarino.
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.
Moutet delighted the crowd with an outrageous ‘hotdog’ lob over Djokovic early in the second set, but the 16-time Grand Slam champion belatedly found his form.
Djokovic did let one break slip after leading 4-1, but closed out victory on his first match point with a forehand winner.
– Thiem overcomes ‘unbelievable’ Raonic –
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 (7/5), 5-7, 6-4 as the Canadian powered down 30 aces in a thunderous serving display.
But Thiem, who has lost the last two French Open finals to Nadal across Paris at Roland Garros, saved nine of 10 break points to stay with his opponent before clinching the crucial breakthrough in game nine of the deciding set.
“It was unbelievable today, his serve,” admitted the Austrian after winning in two hours and 38 minutes.
“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 in the last 16 after the Bulgarian’s 7-5, 6-3 win over 12th seed David Goffin.
Three-time Grand Slam title-winner Stan Wawrinka took his career record against former US Open champion Marin Cilic to 13-2 with a 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/5) success to set up a possible last-16 clash with Nadal.
World number seven Tsitsipas continued his return to form with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 victory over American Taylor Fritz.
He will take on Alex de Minaur in round three after the Australian’s 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/1) 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.
The defeat ended Italian Fognini’s chances of qualifying for the ATP Finals.