French Open: Novak Djokovic, Aryna Sabalenka ease through on rain-hit day in Paris

Novak Djokovic.
Novak Djokovic. Photo credit: Getty Images

Rain put a dampener on the third day of the French Open but defending champion Novak Djokovic avoided getting bogged down as his quest for a record-extending 25th Grand Slam title got off to a solid enough start on Wednesday (NZ time).

It was business-like rather than spectacular for Djokovic in the late match on Court Philippe Chatrier but earlier Casper Ruud and Aryna Sabalenka provided some bright spots on a grey Parisian day with impressive first-round wins.

Denmark's 13th seed Holger Rune also brought his usual flair to court as he saw off Britain's Dan Evans in straight sets while French favourite Alize Cornet waved goodbye as she was well beaten by seventh seed Zheng Qinwen in what was the final match of her long career.

The day took a long while to come to life though as spectators, many wearing winter jackets, were starved of action throughout the day on the outside courts, while players kicked their heels in the locker rooms.

No play was possible until 4pm, other than under the retractable roofs of Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen, although some of the backlog was cleared later on.

Aryna Sabalenka.
Aryna Sabalenka. Photo credit: Getty Images

Top seed Djokovic took to court in the evening to face Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert with doubts about his form after a disappointing season in which he has not reached a final.

There were still some blemishes in his game including a dip in the second set but Djokovic also produced some scintillating tennis at times to win 6-4 7-6(3) 6-4.

"It's a straight-set win. In the moments when it mattered I think I delivered, played a great tiebreak, stayed focused," Serbian Djokovic, who took his first-round record at Roland Garros to 20-0, told reporters.

"I'm glad that I started the way I started, the way I felt on the court. Comparing to the previous weeks of tournaments I played, I felt good. So I'm moving in a positive direction."

Two-times runner-up Ruud swept aside Brazilian qualifier Felipe Alves 6-3 6-4 6-3 in a renewed bid for a maiden Grand Slam title in Paris after disappointments in the previous two years.

High on confidence following his Geneva title, the world number seven produced a masterclass in serving as he raced past his unheralded opponent in under two hours.

"This is one of the biggest tournaments for me and everyone every year. One of my highlights. I'm always looking forward to it. The last two years have given me so much here," Ruud said.

"I hope I can make it another good year."

World No. 2 Sabalenka, who is eyeing a second major of the season after her successful Australian Open defence in January, mowed down Russian teenager Erika Andreeva in 68 minutes 6-1 6-2.

Fourth seed Elena Rybakina overcame an early wobble to glide past Belgian Greet Minnen 6-2 6-3 earlier in the day, showing no signs of the illness that had hampered her preparations for the year's second major.

The third straight rain-hit day of the tournament began with a big outpouring of love for Cornet, as one of the ever-present players at Grand Slams in the last two decades bid adieu.

The holder of the professional era women's record for consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearances with 69, Cornet had previously said she would retire after the tournament.

"My feeling is that I have done my duty, I went till the end of the adventure, and that was important for me," Cornet said.

Australian Alex De Minaur thumped Alex Michelsen, Petra Martic overcame Kristina Mladenovic and Dutch player Arantxa Rus stunned three-times Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber once play got going on the outside courts.

Danish shot-maker Rune's victory over Dan Evans meant Katie Boulter walked on court later knowing that she was Britain's last hope of having a singles player in round two. But the 26th seed went down 4-6 7-5 6-4 to Spain's Paula Badosa.