By Karolos Grohmann
PARIS (Reuters) – Defending champion Novak Djokovic made a winning French Open start under new coach Andre Agassi on Monday, cruising past Spain’s Marcel Granollers 6-3 6-4 6-2 in the first round.
The 12-times grand slam champion parted company with his entire coaching team earlier this month after a string of disappointing results before inviting American great Agassi to work with him during the French Open.
Agassi, however, will only stay for the first week of the tournament due to prior obligations, Djokovic said.
The 30-year-old Serbian, without a tour title since January, found little resistance from Granollers, grabbing two breaks early on in the first set as he chased the 77th-ranked Spaniard around the court.
“It was different for me being here this time because being defending champion gave me a lot of relief,” Djokovic told reporters. “I wanted to start off well, engage all engines in the right way which I have done.”
With Agassi, sporting a black t-shirt and sunglasses, quietly sitting in the stands along with the Serb’s entourage, it was a similar story early in the second set with the world number two returning everything Granollers tried to throw at him.
He again went 4-1 up before a wobble saw him fail to convert eight set points at 5-3.
“A set up and 4-1 up, when I had him on the ropes I just played very bad games,” he said. “That’s the only thing that wasn’t great for me.”
Djokovic, though, kept his cool to earn the second set and capitalized on the Spaniard’s accumulating mistakes in the third set to seal victory on his first match point.
With eight-times grand slam champion Agassi making a fast exit from the stands at the conclusion of the match, Djokovic heaped praise on his new coach.
“It is an incredible honor and good luck to have him with me on the team,” Djokovic said. “Every day is special with him. I am learning something every day.”
He said Agassi, who started working with Djokovic only days ago, would leave at the end of the week.
“I will try to use the time with him as best as I can. Plenty of information, plenty of things to process. I think this is exactly what I needed at this moment, a person like him who understands the reactions as a tennis player and a person.”
“I changed everyone (coaches). But I will not change my wife. My wife never.”
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Pritha Sarkar)