PARIS: Carlos Alcaraz powered his way into the second round at the French Open, delivering a remarkable 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 performance to dismissed qualifier Flavio Cobolli on Monday.
The Spaniard, who is striving for his second Grand Slam title, took just one hour and 57 minutes to secure his victory, sending a formidable warning to his rivals.
"It's great to play here. It's my first time on Suzanne-Lenglen and I enjoyed playing here," said the 2022 US Open champion.
With this win, the world No. 1 improved his season record to 31-3, during which he has claimed four tour-level trophies, including two ATP 1000 Masters crowns at Indian Wells and Madrid.
The top seed recovered from an initial failure to serve for victory at 5-4 in the third set, conceding a break which saw his world No. 159 opponent level the score at 5-5.
"It is not too good when losing your serve at 5-4. But I had to overcome that and forget that. And I played a great level from 5-5," said the 20-year-old about the break.
The 2022 quarterfinalist responded quickly, breaking back in the subsequent game before seizing the opportunity to serve for the victory in the 12th game.
Next for Alcaraz will be Japan's Taro Daniel, a New York-born player who eliminated Australian Christopher O'Connell in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2, 6-4.
22-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic also launched his campaign with a flourish, defeating Aleksandar Kovacevic of the United States, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(1), to reach at least the second round in Paris for an astonishing 19 years.
Despite Kovacevic's attempt to rally in the third set, moving from 5-3 to force a tie-break, the third seed maintained composure to dominate the tie-break with a 7-1 victory.
"I think I played really well and held things under control for two and a half sets and then lost my serve, and things got a little bit on a wrong side for me," Djokovic said in his post-match press conference. "But you know, I managed to hold my nerves and played pretty much a perfect tie-break."
The 36-year-old Serbian, who has been crowned in Roland Garros twice in 2016 and 2021, approached the clay major following a lackluster run after his Australian Open win. He competed in three clay tournaments with a best result of reaching the quarterfinals in Rome.
Djokovic will next face world No. 83 Marton Fucsovics of Hungary for a spot in the round of 32.
In the women's events, local French favorite Caroline Garcia, the fifth seed, survived a strong performance from China's Wang Xiyu, pushing through after a hard-fought three-setter, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4.
"It was just a question of a few points here and there," Garcia said. "She has lots of things she does well. She has a good game that's very aggressive. I had to keep calm and seize the very few opportunities that I had."
Two-time Grand Slam winner Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic was upset 6-3, 6-4 by Italy's Elisabetta Cocciaretto, who also secured her first victory over a top-10 player.
In a clash between two former top 3 players, 2018 French Open finalist Sloane Stephens defeated No.16 seed Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-4 in just one hour and 24 minutes.
Stephens extended her head-to-head record against Pliskova to 5-1 overall and 2-1 on clay. Their last encounter was also at Roland Garros, with Stephens triumphing 7-5, 6-1 in the 2021 second round.