Djokovic 'the snake' tackles Berankis 'the spearfisher' at Roland Garros

Paris (AFP) –


Novak Djokovic, who was likened to a snake by his vanquished first round Roland Garros opponent, tackles spear-fishing fan Ricardas Berankis on Thursday for a place in the last 32.

"It's like a snake killing its prey. I felt suffocated," said Sweden's Mikael Ymer who took just six games off Djokovic in the opening round in Paris.

Djokovic, chasing a second French Open and an 18th major, now has a 32-1 record for the year. His only defeat was his disqualification from the US Open.

"Everyone has been talking about the conditions this year. The balls, the heavy clay, the cold weather. It all affects the play, of course," said Djokovic of the autumn weather in the French capital.

"But I think it's quite suitable to my style of the game."

Now it's the turn of Lithuania's Berankis, ranked 66, to try and reel in the Serb who is bidding to become the first man in half a century to win all four Grand Slam tournaments twice.

The 30-year-old Berankis lists spear-fishing as one of his hobbies on the lakes of Lithuania.

He may have more time for that hobby after Thursday against Djokovic who is playing in the second round for the 16th time.

At least Berankis will be buoyed by having at last made the second round in Paris for the first time after falling at the opening hurdle six times.

Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who made the last 16 in Paris last year but had to come back from two sets down in the first round against Jaume Munar, faces wily Uruguayan veteran Pablo Cuevas.

The 34-year-old world number 60 has made the third round on four occasions and all six of his career titles have come on clay.

However, Tsitsipas has won all three of their meetings, two of them on clay including on his way to the runners-up spot in Hamburg last week.

Andrey Rublev, the mop-topped Russian who defeated Tsitsipas in the Hamburg final and now has three titles in 2020, also needed to come back from two sets down in his opener against Sam Querrey of the United States.

The 22-year-old will Thursday face Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, the 21-year-old world number 70, who enjoyed a run to the last 16 at the US Open.

In the women's tournament which reeled Wednesday from the injury-enforced withdrawal of three-time champion Serena Williams, the spotlight falls on four Grand Slam champions who are in action.

Jelena Ostapenko, the shock 2017 winner in Paris, tackles second seed Karolina Pliskova, a semi-finalist in that year, while Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin meets Ana Bogdan, one of five Romanians to make the second round.

Two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, whose best run was the semi-finals in 2012, takes on Italy's Jasmine Paolini, the world 94 who claimed a maiden match win at the Slams in the first round.

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open winner and runner-up at Roland Garros in 2018, plays Spain's Paula Badosa.