Agassi watches as Djokovic wins opener

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - HOWARD FEN­DRICH

PARIS — If No­vak Djokovic was hop­ing to take a lit­tle pres­sure and at­ten­tion off him­self af­ter some rough results, he might very well have found the per­fect way to do that by adding An­dre Agassi as a coach­ing con­sul­tant of sorts for the French Open.

Well, for up to a week of the tour­na­ment, any­way.

With Agassi seated in the stands, gen­er­ally ex­pres­sion­less dur­ing the match and silent af­ter­ward, the No. 2-seeded Djokovic was not al­ways at his clean-swing­ing best while beat­ing Mar­cel Gra­nollers 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 on Mon­day to be­gin the de­fence of the ti­tle that al­lowed him to com­plete a ca­reer Grand Slam at Roland Gar­ros a year ago.

“I mean, it’s hard to say whether there is sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence on the court, be­cause it’s only a few days that we are to­gether,” Djokovic said. “So it’s go­ing to take a lit­tle bit of time . ... I’m pa­tient and, for us, this is a great way to start off our col­lab­o­ra­tion and friend­ship and get to know each other and then see where it takes us.”

On a rel­a­tively quiet Day 2, Rafael Nadal started his pur­suit of a record 10th French Open cham­pi­onship with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 vic­tory over Benoit Paire. Other seeded men ad­vanc­ing in­cluded No. 5 Mi­los Raonic, No. 7 Marin Cilic and No. 10 David Gof­fin, while No. 14 Jack Sock, the top-ranked U.S. man, and No. 31 Gilles Si­mon — both in Nadal’s sec­tion of the draw — plus No. 32 Mis­cha Zverev all lost.

De­fend­ing women’s cham­pion Gar­bine Muguruza and for­mer No. 1 Caroline Woz­ni­acki won in straight sets, but two seeded Amer­i­can women joined Sock on the way out: No. 19 CoCo Van­deweghe and No. 25 Lau­ren Davis.

Leave it to the No. 4-seeded Nadal to win rel­a­tively simply and then lament a por­tion of his per­for­mance.

“For me,” he said, “it’s im­por­tant to serve a lit­tle bit bet­ter than what I did to­day.”

Djokovic made it sound as if Agassi’s role right now is more about of­fer­ing life ad­vice than ten­nis tips.

Sun­glasses perched atop his shaved pate, lean­ing for­ward with his chin rest­ing on his hands and el­bows on his knees, Agassi oc­ca­sion­ally ap­plauded dur­ing the 2 ½-hour firstround match. Later, Agassi — who counts the 1999 French Open among his eight Grand Slam ti­tles — de­clined to take ques­tions from a re­porter.

Djokovic, for his part, had plenty to say about their part­ner­ship, which sounds more like a brief ex­per­i­ment than the start of a longterm ar­range­ment, even if that’s what the Serb in­sisted he hopes it can be­come.

“Well, he’s go­ing to stay ... I hope, ‘til the end of this week. Then he has to leave, be­cause he has some sched­uled ... things that he can­not resched­ule. So that’s all,” said Djokovic, whose 29 un­forced er­rors were one more than Gra­nollers’ to­tal. “I’m go­ing to try to use the time spent with him as best as I can, as best as we can. So far, plenty of in­for­ma­tion, plenty of things to kind of process.”

A year ago, when Djokovic fi­nally ful­filled his quest to win a tro­phy in Paris, he was work­ing with Boris Becker — who was on hand Mon­day and vis­ited with Agassi — and Mar­ian Va­jda. But Djokovic split with those coaches, as well as other mem­bers of his en­tourage, hop­ing to re­gain the groove that made him the first man in nearly a half-cen­tury to win four con­sec­u­tive ma­jors.

Since then, though, the high­light for Djokovic was a run­ner-up fin­ish at the U.S. Open. Oth­er­wise, he lost his No. 1 rank­ing to Andy Mur­ray and lost in the third round of Wim­ble­don, the first round of the Rio Olympics and the sec­ond round of the Aus­tralian Open.

“You’re de­vel­oped to kind of flip the next page very quickly. Whether or not you win or lose in a big tour­na­ment, there is an­other big one com­ing up in a mat­ter of weeks’ time or even less. So for me, it was re­ally strange to get to feel what I felt the end of last sea­son,” Djokovic said, “be­cause I al­ways, even when I would face that be­fore in my ca­reer, I felt that I would over­come it very quickly.”

This time, he ac­knowl­edged, that didn’t hap­pen. “I had to work harder,” Djokovic said. And he opted to make changes.

CHRISTOPHE ENA, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHRISTOPHE ENA, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ser­bia’s No­vak Djokovic, right, serves against Spain’s Mar­cel Gra­nollers dur­ing their first-round match at the French Open Mon­day, as his coach, An­dre Agassi, watches from the stands.

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