Two-times champion Novak Djokovic huffed and puffed but forced his way into the fourth round of the French Open following a 7-6(4) 7-6(5) 6-2 win over Spanish 29th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Friday.
Djokovic, who is aiming to leapfrog injured champion Rafa Nadal and win a 23rd Grand Slam title, came into the match at Court Philippe Chatrier having lost to Davidovich Fokina the last time they met in Monte Carlo.
The 36-year-old Serbian was given an early reminder of his struggles in that 2022 match by the man-bun sporting Davidovich Fokina, who had the world number three tied up in knots with some heavy hitting and breathtaking drop shots.
Djokovic creaked on serve but hit back when it mattered to level at 3-3 and edged the 83-minute first set with a blistering crosscourt winner that drew huge roars.
A charged-up Djokovic responded to an early break with two of his own but dropped serve again in the wildly swinging second set, before shrugging off three double faults at 5-5 and a time violation to double his advantage in another tiebreak.
He called the trainer onto the court for an apparent left leg issue, sparking fears the injury that accompanied his run to the Australian Open title in January had returned, but pulled away in the third set and crossed the finish line in style.