Novak Djokovic made a winning start to his partnership with Andre Agassi and is keen to soak up as much knowledge as he can before the American heads back home.
Agassi has been tempted into coaching for the first time by the defending French Open champion but must leave Paris well before the tournament finishes. The eight-time Grand Slam winner sat impassively through Djokovic’s 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Marcel Granollers, a performance the second seed later described as a bit “rusty”.
The American also had a surprise visitor, with Djokovic’s former coach Boris Becker popping out to shake the hand of his successor. Djokovic and Agassi have been testing the partnership out this week, and the Serbian has already seen enough to know he wants it to continue.
“He’s going to stay, I hope, until the end of this week,” Djokovic said. “Then he has to leave because he has some things that he cannot reschedule. I’m going to try to use the time spent with him as best as we can. So far plenty of information, plenty of things to process. I’m really enjoying it.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time, and all the good things take a bit of time to get their real effect. I’m patient and for us this is a great way to start off our collaboration and friendship and get to know each other and then see where it takes us. It’s hopefully something that can be long term.”
Djokovic split from his long-time team last month as he sought answers to the slump that has seen him struggle since adding a fourth consecutive grand slam title here last year.
He is not expecting his relationship with eight-time grand slam champion Agassi to result in any dramatic differences to his playing style.
Djokovic, who will play Portugal’s Joao Sousa in round two, added: “He says the right things in the right moment. Everything he says, it’s very useful for me. And it definitely makes sense.
“I’m trying to implement certain things on the court. It’s not anything that really will significantly change my game. I won’t start to play serve and volley or something like that.
“It’s more about the mindset, the approach, because I feel that the game that I have has gotten me to where I am for a reason, and he feels that my game is very much at a good place. It’s just matter of fine-tuning it in the right way.”
Rafael Nadal followed Djokovic into the second round as he began his quest for a 10th French Open title with a straightforward 6-1 6-4 6-1 victory over Benoit Paire.
After racing through the first set, things became a little sticky for Nadal in the second against his unpredictable French opponent. Paire led 3-1 and had chances to move 5-3 ahead but could not take them. He then called for the doctor at the start of the third set and the match was over inside two hours.
Nadal was largely happy, saying: “I’m always at the start, happy for the victory. It was not an easy opponent in the first round.
“I think I played very good in the first set. During the second I suffered a little bit, especially at 4-3, bad point. And after that I make the break straight away and then finished a close set, and it was a little bit less difficult.
“For me, it’s important to serve a little bit better than what I did today. The rest of the things I am happy with.”
Fifth seed Milos Raonic was a convincing 6-3 6-4 6-2 winner over Steve Darcis while Marin Cilic and David Goffin, who will both have high hopes for this tournament, also came through in straight sets.
Fourteenth seed Jack Sock was dumped out by Jiri Vesely but there was an emotional two-day win for his fellow American Steve Johnson, who defeated Yuichi Sugita in five sets.
Johnson’s father, also called Steve, died suddenly earlier this month at the age of just 58. He said: “My mum and sister and my fiancee are here, so it makes it easier and harder all at the same time to see them. Just the pain and just trying to get through it. It’s hard. It’s not about tennis right now.”
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