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PARIS: Novak Djokovic believes he’s moving in a “positive direction” as he targets a place in the last 32 of the French Open on Thursday.

The world number one, chasing a fourth title at Roland Garros and record 25th Grand Slam, arrived in Paris in the midst of a worrying dry spell.

For the first time since 2018, the 37-year-old has not made a final let alone add a title to his 98 career titles.

However, he saw positive signs in his opening straight-sets win against Pierre-Hugues Herbert, his 20th victory in 20 first round matches at Roland Garros.

“I’m glad that I started the way I started, the way I felt on the court,” said Djokovic, who has advanced to the quarter-finals or better every year since 2010.

“Compared to the previous weeks of tournaments I played, I felt good, better. So I’m moving in a positive direction.”

He added: “I was fist pumping, I was focused, I was there, I was present. So I’m pleased with the way I had a mindset on the court.

That was something that I was looking for. And where are you going to feel that way if not in Grand Slams.“

On Thursday, Djokovic faces 63rd-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain, a player he has defeated twice in straight sets. Fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who likely ended the French Open career of 14-time champion Rafael Nadal on Monday, faces unseeded David Goffin.

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Zverev has made the semi-finals in Paris for the last three years.

“I feel good on the court. I’m not going to lie,” said Zverev.

Goffin, meanwhile, knocked out home hope Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard in five sets in the first round in a stormy clash which saw the Belgian accuse a spectator of spitting chewing gum at him.

“It’s becoming like football, soon there will be smoke bombs, hooligans and there will be fights in the stands,” said the 33-year-old.

Casper Ruud, the runner-up for the last two years, takes on Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina while fifth-ranked Daniil Medvedev faces Miomir Kecmanovic. Before this year, Medvedev had lost in the first round five times.

In the women’s draw, world number two Aryna Sabalenka takes on Japanese qualifier Moyuka Uchijima having swept past Erika Andreeva in the first round for the loss of just three games.

Australian Open champion Sabalenka has made at least the last four at her past six Grand Slams.

Victory would give her a potential third round match-up against close friend Paula Badosa should the Spaniard defeat Yulia Putintseva.

Fourth seed Elena Rybakina, a former Wimbledon champion, plays Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands.

The fifth day of Roland Garros will offer up a bumper programme after torrential rain on Wednesday caused 23 second round matches to be held over.


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