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Djokovic's racket feels the fury as he battles to last 16

 

By Andy Sims

Novak Djokovic dropped his first set, and smashed his first racket, at this year's French Open - but still battled through to the fourth round.

The former world number one cut a frustrated figure in his clash with Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut, the 13th seed.

When he missed a simple forehand during the second-set tie-break, Djokovic pounded his racket against the ground before stomping off to unwrap a new one. The Serbian is seeded 20th following his recent absence through injury.

However, the 2016 Paris winner eventually found a way past Bautista Agut, winning 6-4 6-7 (6/8) 7-6 (7/4) 6-2.

"It was a big point," Djokovic explained. "And I managed to come back from being down in the tie-break, and 6-6. If the ball went over it would be a winner, and I hit the top of the net.

"In these kind of circumstances, sometimes emotions get the worst out of you or the best out of you. I'm not proud of doing that, to be honest. But at times, it happens."

Djokovic's route deeper in the tournament may have been made a little easier, too, after fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov bowed out.

The 12-time grand slam winner will instead meet another Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco, in the last 16.

Bulgarian Dimitrov won the ATP Tour Finals in London last year, but his wait for a grand slam title will go on after a 7-6 (7/4) 6-2 6-4 loss to the 30th seed. Verdasco has now reached the fourth round at Roland Garros seven times, but he has yet to progress any further.

Second seed Alexander Zverev, who along with Djokovic is seen as one of the few genuine challengers to 10-time champion Rafael Nadal this year, was taken to five sets for the second time.

The 21-year-old German was up against it trailing 2-1 to Damir Dzumhur.

Amid some spectacular rallies Dzumhur was playing shots far above his ranking of 26, and he also collided with a ball boy as both went to collect a high loose ball. The Bosnian forced two match points in the deciding set but he put the second, a simple forehand winner, into the net and Zverev survived before going on to register a 6-2 3-6 4-6 7-6 (7/3) 7-5 victory in just under four hours.

Caroline Wozniacki raced into the fourth round of the French Open with a crushing victory over home hope Pauline Parmentier. The feeling among the locals was that Parmentier, the world number 75, had the tools to trouble the second seed.

Instead the 32-year-old found herself facing the dreaded double bagel with Wozniacki up 6-0 5-0 after only an hour.

At deuce Parmentier found a winner to earn a game point and raised her arms in mock celebration. She actually went on to win the next three games, but it was only delaying the inevitable as Dane Wozniacki went through 6-0 6-3.

"I feel pretty good. I think I played some solid tennis, and I'm happy to be through to the fourth round here again," said Wozniacki.

There was a shock in round three as fourth seed Elina Svitolina tumbled out.

The Ukrainian, twice a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, went down 6-3 7-5 to Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania, seeded 31.

"I was off and couldn't find my rhythm, my game. I was really struggling," said Svitolina.

"On the other hand, she was playing great tennis. You know, she was really on the ball."

Wozniacki will face Russian Daria Kasatkina, seeded 14, in the last 16 after she edged past Greece's Maria Sakkari 6-1 1-6 6-3.

Buzarnescu takes on Madison Keys, the 13th seed from America who beat Japan's Naomi Osaka 6-1 7-6 (9/7).

Serena Williams continues her bid for a 24th grand slam title against German 11th seed Julia Goerges on Saturday.

The 36-year-old American is playing her first grand slam since giving birth to her daughter in September.

She said: "Goerges been playing really well and I had actually been watching her play a lot when I was pregnant, because she's been winning a lot and they show a lot of her matches.

"Every round for me is just an opportunity to go out there and do the best that I can do, and whether I win or lose, that's what I'm out here to do in this tournament."

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