Sports

Djokovic, Nadal roll in French openers

Paris, France (SportsNetwork.com) - Current world No. 1 stalwart Novak Djokovic and nine-time champion Rafael Nadal were a pair of first-round winners Tuesday at the French Open.

The two-time Roland Garros runner-up Djokovic got past veteran Finnish left-hander Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 7-5, 6-2, while the former world No. 1 great Nadal eased past 296th-ranked Frenchman Quentin Halys 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 on Court Chatrier.

"When I had the chance to play normal points, I think I changed [rallies with] good directions with my forehand [and] very good forehands down the line," Nadal said after beating the little-known Halys. "After the first three games, when I started a little bit slow, then I start moving the ball better. I am happy with the way that I played. It is the first match and I played well enough. I think my forehand worked well for a lot of moments."

Djokovic trailed 2-5 in the second set before charging back to win 11-of-13 games against Nieminen and extend his current winning streak to 23 matches.

Djokovic surged to a 4-0 lead in the third set, before Nieminen made life difficult for the top seed. The 33-year-old Finn saved three match points in a 14-point seventh game. Djokovic eventually closed out on his fifth match point and is now 36-2 on a season.

Nieminen fell to 0-11 against world No. 1s.

Djokovic has been working with a tutor to improve his French and conducted his post-match, on-court interview in the local language -- much to the crowd's delight.

"I'm very excited to speak French," Djokovic told the fans. "Hopefully my teacher will say that I was good."

The reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion needs a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam.

His second-round opponent on Thursday will be Luxembourg's Gilles Muller or Italian Paolo Lorenzi.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion Nadal beat the eight-time major titlist Djokovic in last year's final to capture a fifth straight title at Roland Garros, where the Spanish star is 67-1 for his career, including a victory over Djokovic in the 2012 French final as well.

Nadal entered this fortnight with his lowest seed ever in Paris -- No. 6. He did not win any of the four French Open tune-up events this spring, including a loss to Andy Murray in a Masters final in Madrid.

The 28-year-old Nadal is attempting to become only the second player in tennis history to win 10 or more trophies at one Grand Slam championship. Australian Margaret Court captured the Australian title on 11 occasions between 1960 and 1973.

Nadal will face fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in the round of 64.

David Ferrer and Marin Cilic joined Djokovic and Nadal in the second round.

Ferrer, the seventh seed and 2013 French Open runner-up, secured his 300th career clay-court victory by blasting Slovakia's Lukas Lacko 6-1, 6-3, 6-1, while Cilic, the ninth seed and reigning U.S. Open champ, had little trouble in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 romp of Dutchman Robin Haase.

Meanwhile, rising American Jack Sock pulled off a stunner by upending 10th- seeded Bulgarian star Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (9-7), 6-2, 6-3 and 16th-seeded American John Isner moved on with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Italian Andreas Seppi.

The 22-year-old Sock, who was born in Nebraska and is now based in Florida, pounded serves at up to 136 miles per hour, whipped big forehands and won the point on 19-of-25 trips to the net against Dimitrov, who was a semifinalist at Wimbledon last year.

Sock has never been past the third round at a Grand Slam event.

Also on Day 3, 15th-seeded South African Kevin Anderson handled American Tim Smyczek 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, 20th-seeded French favorite Richard Gasquet rolled past Belgian Germain Gigounon 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 and 23rd-seeded Argentine Leonardo Mayer outlasted Czech Jiri Vesely 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. Mayer was a runner-up on clay in Nice last week.

Several other men posted opening-round wins, including the aforementioned Almagro, tall Pole Jerzy Janowicz, France's Jeremy Chardy and Portuguese Joao Sousa, who is rewarded with a match against the third-seeded Murray, the Aussie Open runner-up who is a perfect 11-0 on clay this season.

The second round will get underway on Wednesday, including a match for second- seeded former world No. 1 Roger Federer, who will be opposed by Spaniard Marcel Granollers.

The 17-time Grand Slam king Federer captured his lone French Open title in 2009 and is a four-time runner-up here to Nadal.

Also seeing action on Day 4 will be fourth-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych, fifth-seeded U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori and eighth-seeded former Aussie Open champ Stan Wawrinka.

The French faithful will cheer on the likes of 12th-seeded Gilles Simon, 13th- seeded Gael Monfils and 14th-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Wednesday.