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Sunday 4 December 2016

Novak: Nadal is favourite for the French Open

Serb praises his rival as pair stay on track for clash

Rafael Nadal of Spain
Rafael Nadal of Spain

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic moved one step closer to a mouthwatering French Open quarter-final after both players won their first round matches in straight sets.

Nadal is chasing his 10th title at Roland Garros but has suffered some disappointing results on clay in recent weeks, while Djokovic has been in superb form, losing only two matches so far this year.

Both players, however, encountered few problems in round one and Nadal admits he is eager to find consistency after beating French wild card Quentin Halys 6-3 6-3 6-4.

Nadal, who will now face fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, said: "I played a good match, a solid one. When I had some opportunities I seized them.

"I had some problems with my serve, but on the whole, it was okay. It was a solid performance and I'm happy with it."

Number one seed Djokovic, who has never won the French Open, is also safely through after he beat Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen 6-2 7-5 6-2.

The Serb looked briefly vulnerable when Nieminen was 5-3 up and serving for the second set but he hit back, winning the next four games in a row.

Djokovic and Nadal have met six times in Paris and the Spaniard has come out on top on every occasion. Nadal's win yesterday was his 67th win in 68 matches at the tournament.

"His record says enough about the quality of the tennis that he plays here," Djokovic said. "It's without a doubt his most successful tournament.

"To accept the fact that you're going to have to play a lot of long rallies, you're going to have to win the points, he's not going to give them to you - he's one of the best defenders ever to play the game."

Serena Williams powered her way into the second round of the French Open with a 6-2 6-3 win over Czech qualifier Andrea Hlavackova.

The American encountered few problems in dispatching Hlavackova, who is ranked 166th in the world.

Fourth seed Petra Kvitova squeezed into the next round after winning 6-4 3-6 6-4 against New Zealand's Marina Erakovic.

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