Daniil Medvedev still has issues with clay courts, but the world No.2 cantered into the French Open third round with a 6-3 6-4 6-3 win against Serbia’s Laslo Djere.
The Russian, who reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros last year after four consecutive first-round exits, struggled at times on Thursday but his elasticity eventually made up for his lack of natural ability to move around on the slow surface.
Medvedev found himself down a break in the first set but his brilliant defence helped him claw his way out of trouble on Court Philippe Chatrier.
He will now meet the No.28 seed, Miomir Kecmanovic, also of Serbia.
Medvedev arrived in Paris with only one match on clay under his belt after a hernia procedure in April.
A string of early unforced errors gave Djere a break in the first game, but Medvedev moved up a gear to win five games in a row and take control.
Medvedev said he was fortunate to escape with a straight sets win.
“Today he (Djere) played maybe better clay-court tennis but I managed to play better on the important points,” the 26-year-old said.
“It’s very difficult. I tried to make him play a little bit more. Maybe he had cramps or an injury and he took the ball early and so he either made a mistake or a winner.”
Greek No.4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas battled through three successive tiebreakers in the night match on Court Suzanne Lenglen to beat Zdenek Kolar 6-3 7-6 (10-8) 6-7 (7-3) 7-6 (9-7) in just over four hours.
Tsitsipas saved four set points to recover from 6-2 down in the fourth set tiebreaker in front of an increasingly raucous crowd. “He drove me crazy,” Tsitsipas said of his 134th-ranked Czech opponent.
“Mr Kolar was putting every part of his body behind the ball and I’d like to congratulate him on an incredible effort.”
Casper Ruud, the No.8 seed, reached the third round for the third year in a row.
The 23-year-old Norwegian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3 6-4 6-2.
Ruud won the Geneva Open last Saturday for his seventh career title on clay courts.
Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, the No.12 seed, reached the third round by beating Italian Marco Cecchinato 6-1 6-4 6-2 in just under an hour and a half.
Former world top 10 player David Goffin overcame a slow start to defeat American No.24 seed Frances Tiafoe.
The Belgian won 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 6-4 to reach the third round for the first time since 2019.
British No.2 Dan Evans looked out of sorts as he slipped to a 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-3 defeat to Swedish world No.95 Mikael Ymer.
The No.29 seed found himself a break down after a slow start and was a set behind following a 14-minute ninth game in which he saved five set points, and squandered two break points, before eventually succumbing.
Although he levelled the match by taking the second set when Ymer netted a backhand, Ymer reeled off six games in a row to take the third and eventually won in three hours and 22 minutes.
Seventh seed Andrey Rublev moved into the third round after beating Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in four sets, 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-3. The Russian will now face Chile’s Cristian Garin.