It would be a shock if the final on June 9 is not a repeat of the Australian Open decider, and nothing in Nadal’s victory over Yannick Hanfmann or Djokovic’s downing of Hubert Hurkacz changed that view.
Djokovic had the more difficult assignment against 22-year-old Pole Hurkacz, who has made swift progress up the rankings, but the world number one was dialled in from the start and eased to a 6-4 6-2 6-2 victory.
“I had to start sharp with the right intensity,” he said. “And a break of serve in the first game gave me wings, I would say, and relaxed me a bit so I could just start off in the best possible fashion. I thought I played a very solid match.”
Djokovic and Nadal have played each other seven times at Roland Garros, with the Spaniard winning six, so it could be to Djokovic’s advantage that he feels the redevelopment of Chatrier has changed the playing conditions.
“It’s a pleasure to play in the new court,” he said. “It looks different, obviously, and feels a bit different. It feels a little bit more like indoor, which I like.”
Nadal disagreed after his 6-2 6-1 6-3 victory over German qualifier Hanfmann, who was playing only his second grand slam match.
“I think it’s the same,” he said. “I don’t have different feelings. In terms of a visual game, we can talk about small differences, but in terms of playing tennis, I think it’s the same.”
Nadal had to consult YouTube to learn more about Hanfmann, and he will do the same for his next opponent, another German qualifier called Yannick, this time Yannick Maden.
Nadal was content with his opening display, saying: “It was a first round, and I did a lot of things well. Not many mistakes. Being very solid all the time.
“Of course it is the beginning and the first round is more about talking about what I have to do better. What I did very well today is just about the general
feeling, and the general feeling has been positive this afternoon.”
Fourth seed Dominic Thiem, who was beaten by Nadal in the final 12 months ago, was in trouble against American Tommy Paul but recovered to win 6-4 4-6 7-6 (5) 6-2.
After taking the second set, Paul led 4-0 in the tie-break but could not hang onto his advantage.
It was a good day for the home country, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Benoit Paire, Gilles Simon and Corentin Moutet all winning, but the French moment of the day undoubtedly came on Court 14, where Pierre-Hugues Herbert came from two sets down to defeat 12th seed Daniil Medvedev 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5.
Herbert’s fine victory came only a day after his long-time doubles partner Nicolas Mahut mounted a similar comeback against Marco Cecchinato.
Provided by Press Association Sport
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