FRENCH OPEN | Alcaraz, Zverev pull off French Open escapes as Djokovic cruises

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Novak Djokovic. (Photo by Atilano Garcia/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic. (Photo by Atilano Garcia/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz and third seed Alexander Zverev both saved a match point in five-set French Open thrillers, while reigning champion Novak Djokovic eased into the third round Wednesday.

Alcaraz, widely tipped as a title contender, rallied from the brink to defeat compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-7 (7/9), 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 after four hours and 34 minutes.

"I feel tired," said Alcaraz. "It was a great battle, a great match and we fought until the last point."

The 19-year-old Alcaraz is attempting to become just the eighth teenager to capture a major men's title, and backed as the man to break the stranglehold of Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

But he was pushed to the limit by the seasoned Ramos-Vinolas, 15 years his elder and whose best performance at a Grand Slam came when he made the quarter-finals in Paris six years ago.

Alcaraz, the tour's dominant player in 2022 with a season-leading four titles, fought off a match point to break Ramos-Vinolas as he served at 5-4 in the fourth set.

He then clawed his way back from 3-0 in the decider, producing an outrageous backhand pass to retrieve the break and more sensational baseline scrambling to move 5-4 in front before closing out victory with an ace.

Zverev, a 2021 semi-finalist, dug himself out of a deep hole against Argentina's Sebastian Baez to avoid his earliest loss at a major in three years.

Zverev overcame Baez 2-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-5 and will play Brandon Nakashima of the US for a place in the last 16.

"I'm happy still being in the tournament right now," said Zverev, who was match point down on serve at 4-5 in the final set.

"I was planning my holiday in Monaco, where I was going to go and who I was going to with and that relaxed me, thinking about the beach.

"You just have to find a way."

It was the third comeback from a two-set deficit in Zverev's career. He trailed fellow German Oscar Otte 2-0 in the opening round at Roland Garros a year ago before his run to the last four.

Djokovic made comfortable work of Slovakia's Alex Molcan, the world number one winning 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) against a player trained by his long-time former coach Marian Vajda, the man who inspired most of his 20 Grand Slam titles.

"So far so good. I'm pleased with the way I'm feeling on the court," Djokovic said after reaching the last 32 at Roland Garros for the 17th straight year.

"It was never going to be an easy match, but I thought I performed very well. Everything is going in the right direction. I'm looking forward to the next challenge."

The top seed will continue his bid for a third Roland Garros crown against Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene in the last 32.

However, Maria Sakkari became the fifth women's top-10 seed to exit after going down 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4) to Czech world number 81 Karolina Muchova.

Sakkari, the fourth seed from Greece, was a point away from reaching the final at Roland Garros last year.

Her defeat left the women's draw without four of its top six seeds as she followed defending champion Barbora Krejcikova, Anett Kontaveit and Ons Jabeur through the exit door.

Muchova will next play 27th seed Amanda Anisimova, who made the last four in Paris three years ago.

"It's very special, she's an amazing player. It was a big fight, a little bit of a test and challenge for me and I'm happy I took it the way I did," said Muchova.

Former Grand Slam champions Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka also advanced to the third round.

Chasing a 14th French Open title, Rafael Nadal goes up against French wildcard Corentin Moutet in the evening session. Moutet knocked out 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in round one.

Nadal began the year with a 20-match winning run, capturing a second Australian Open title to claim a record 21st Grand Slam and move ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer.

The 35-year-old's record at the French Open stands at a staggering 106 wins and just three losses since his 2005 title-winning debut, but he is without a title on clay this season after dealing with rib and foot injuries.

French Open results on Wednesday, the fourth day of the 2022 tournament at Roland Garros (x denotes seeding; players representing Russia and Belarus are banned from competing under the name or flag of their countries):

Men

2nd round

Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Alex Molcan (SVK) 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4)

Aljaz Bedene (SLO) bt Pablo Cuevas (URU) 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x18) bt Borna Coric (CRO) 6-0, 6-4, 6-3

Diego Schwartzman (ARG x15) bt Jaume Munar (ESP) 2-6, 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 6-2, 6-2

Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN x9) bt Camilo Ugo Carabelli (ARG) 6-0, 6-3, 6-4

Filip Krajinovic (SRB) bt Borna Gojo (CRO) 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 5-7, 6-1

Botic van de Zandschulp (NED x26) bt Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), 3-2 -- retired

Alexander Zverev (GER x3) bt Sebastian Baez (ARG) 2-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-5

Brandon Nakashima (USA) bt Tallon Griekspoor (NED) 7-6 (8/6), 6-4, 6-2

John Isner (USA x23) bt Gregoire Barrere (FRA) 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5)

Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) bt Taylor Fritz (USA x13) 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3

Cameron Norrie (GBR x10) bt Jason Kubler (AUS) 6-3, 6-4, 6-3

Karen Khachanov (x21) bt Hugo Dellien (BOL) 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/1), 6-3

Carlos Alcaraz (ESP x6) bt Albert Ramos (ESP) 6-1, 6-7 (7/9), 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4

Women

2nd round

Tamara Zidansek (SLO x24) bt Mayar Sherif (EGY) walkover

Martina Trevisan (ITA) bt Magda Linette (POL) 6-3, 6-2

Angelique Kerber (GER x21) bt Elsa Jacquemot (FRA) 6-1, 7-6 (7/2)

Aliaksandra Sasnovich bt Emma Raducanu (GBR x12) 3-6, 6-1, 6-1

Belinda Bencic (SUI x14) bt Bianca Andreescu (CAN) 6-2, 6-4

Leylah Fernandez (CAN x17) bt Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 6-3, 6-2

Amanda Anisimova (USA x27) bt Donna Vekic (CRO) 6-4, 6-1

Karolina Muchova (CZE) bt Maria Sakkari (GRE x4) 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4)

Varvara Gracheva bt Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5

Elise Mertens (BEL x31) bt Marie Bouzkova (CZE) walkover

Coco Gauff (USA x18) bt Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) 6-1, 7-6 (7/4)

Kaia Kanepi (EST) bt Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) 6-4, 6-4

Victoria Azarenka (x15) bt Andrea Petkovic (GER) 6-1, 7-6 (7/3)

Jil Teichmann (SUI x23) bt Olga Danilovic (SRB) 6-4, 6-1

Sloane Stephens (USA) bt Sorana Cirstea (ROM x26) 3-6, 6-2, 6-0

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