36-year-old Djokovic is aiming for his third title at Roland Garros. In 2016 and 2021 he was the best in Paris. Last year he already lost in the quarterfinals to Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic served against Kovacevic at 5-4 in the third set before the match when he was broken by some sloppiness. It resulted in a tiebreak, in which Djokovic looked sharp and convincingly prevented a fourth set. After 2 hours and 36 minutes he finished it off with a hard forehand return.
Djokovic has yet to win a title this clay-court season. He played his first game in almost two weeks. In the second round he will face the Hungarian Marton Fucsovics. The 22-time grand slam champion can already meet the first seeded Carlos Alcaraz in the last four.
Elina Svitolina, who already won the WTA tournament in Strasbourg on Saturday, was too strong for the Italian Martina Trevisan in the first round at Roland Garros: 6-2, 6-2. In March, Svitolina entered into a partnership with Sluiter, who assisted Kiki Bertens in the past and guided him to the global top ten. Svitolina has fallen back on the world ranking partly due to a childbirth. She started the tournament in Strasbourg as the world number 508. She was once third.
Svitolina will face Storm Saunders from Australia in the second round in Paris on Wednesday.