Defending champion Novak Djokovic moved efficiently through the gears once again to beat Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena and reach the French Open third round.

Serbia’s Djokovic, 37, cruised to a 6-4 6-1 6-2 victory on another rain-soaked day in Paris.

It ensured he has reached the last 32 at the clay-court Grand Slam for the 19th consecutive year.

Question marks surrounded the three-time champion and his form when he arrived at Roland Garros following a turbulent year.

“There is always conviction and belief inside of me [that] I can win a Grand Slam,” said Djokovic, who has not reached a final this season.

“That’s the reason why I’m still competing at this level. That’s why I’m here.

“At this age I wouldn’t really be competing at the Slams and continuing to play professional tennis if I didn’t believe that I possess the quality to go all the way to the title match.”

Djokovic played arguably some of his best tennis of the year against 63rd-ranked Carballes Baena, but knows tougher tests lie ahead.

Like in his opening match against France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert, he was not fully stretched but improved his level to win again in straight sets.

Playing under the roof on Court Philippe Chatrier, Djokovic lost serve in the first game of the match before his game warmed up in the cool conditions.

One of the hallmarks of Djokovic’s success has been the ability to strike when it matters most.

After hitting straight back for 1-1, and being unable to convert any of four break points at 2-1, he upped his level again to break Carballes Baena when the Spaniard had to serve to stay in the set.

On the day when the French Open asked fans to show more respect, Djokovic also had to ask the umpire to ensure the crowd remained quiet during points.

That led to a chorus of whistles, but Djokovic responded with a smile as he took control of the second set.

He continued to dominate the rallies and slap winners, breaking five more times to set up a third-round match against France’s Gael Monfils or Italian 30th seed Lorenzo Musetti.

On his form, Djokovic added: “I have to keep my expectations a bit lower.

“I’m being very conscious of the present moment and what needs to be done on a daily basis to build my form – then peak at the right time when it matters the most.”



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