PARIS – World number one Novak Djokovic endured a tough return to the ATP singles circuit but battled through to beat Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in the second round of the Paris Masters on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old 20-time Grand Slam champion had said on Sunday his greatest fear was lack of match practice having not played since Daniil Medvedev dashed his dreams of a Grand Slam sweep in the US Open final in September.
The Serbian’s fears were borne out as Fucsovics put up a sterner test than the ‘rabbit caught in the headlights’ one he had produced when they met in the Wimbledon quarter-finals earlier this year.
Djokovic barely had to engage a second gear when cruising to the first set in 38 minutes with the loss of just two games.
But Fucsovics broke early to go 3-1 up in the second, energising the evening crowd at Bercy.
Djokovic served to save the set to love at 5-3, but the Australian, French, and Wimbledon champion was unable to prevent Fucsovics from serving out to take the match to a decisive set.
Djokovic, though, pulled it together in the third set and broke his 29-year-old opponent to go 4-2 up.
Djokovic had a match point on Fucsovic’s next service game as he turned the screw but the Hungarian saved it and stayed in the contest by winning the game to trail 3-5.
Djokovic, though, made no mistake when he served for the match to see off his 40th-ranked opponent and progess to the third round.
He will play the winner of the all-French clash between Adrian Mannarino and mercurial Gael Monfils.