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French Open PHOTOS: Djokovic cruises; Serena survives Mladenovic test, Ivanovic out

Last updated on: May 29, 2016 12:22 IST

Novak Djokovic returns a shot

IMAGE: Novak Djokovic returns a shot against Britain's Aljaz Bedene during their third round match at the French Open at Roland Garros on Saturday. Photograph: Jacky Naegelen/ReutersGetty Images

Novak Djokovic won his race against the clock, performing in a "night show" as he beat Briton Aljaz Bedene 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the French Open last 16 on Saturday.

After rain cut two-and-a-half hours from the day at Roland Garros, the world number one did not even get on court until 7:25pm local time and had a small window of opportunity to ensure he got a day off on Sunday.

Hurrying the ball boys between points, Djokovic, aiming to win the only grand slam title missing from his collection, struck the ball with aggression throughout but Slovenian-born Bedene was in no mood to oblige and capitulate.

Djokovic even dropped serve in the third set but wrapped up the match on his first match point to set up a meeting with Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, the 14th seed.

"I played very well, 6-2, 5-1, 30-Love, and a couple of long games where I didn't use my opportunities. But I closed out two sets pretty well. Started the third great," Djokovic, beaten in the final last year, told a news conference.

"Then the night show started, you know. I dropped my serve, the games were very long, (umpire) Pascal (Maria) was on fire.

"He was coming down from his chair. Yeah, and we went deep into night. I think we played to the maximum extent of time."

Aljaz Bedene of Great Britain hits a backhand 

IMAGE: Aljaz Bedene of Great Britain hits a backhand. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

At the end of the match, Djokovic invited Frenchman Maria to come off his chair and do the post-match interview with him.

"He says he can't do it but I take full responsibility," Djokovic said in front of an amused crowd.

With rain forecast for Monday, Djokovic was well aware that a drawn-out match could complicate his schedule and he said it was about time Roland Garros modernised.

"It was getting dark. I just hope that, you know, soon that Roland Garros will at least have lights, at least on the centre court and Suzanne Lenglen," he said.

"For a grand slam you need to have lights. I'm really hoping we can have that very soon for these particular situations, especially considering the fact that forecast for weather is not that great in the following days."

The French Open is the only grand slam with no roof over the main show court, even though tournament director Guy Forget said earlier this week Chatrier would have one by 2020.

"It's not good for anybody, waiting the whole day for players, for fans, for tournament organisers," said Djokovic. 

IMAGE: Serena Williams (right) of the United States shakes hands with Kristina Mladenovic of France following her victory. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

Holder Serena Williams survived her toughest challenge yet at this year's French Open as she battled into the fourth round with a 6-4, 7-6(10) win over Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic in a rain-disrupted match on Saturday.

The American's victory charge was halted for more than 2-1/2 hours as a thunderous downpour descended over Roland Garros with Williams leading 6-4, 6-6.

When the duo came back on court to resume battle in a titanic tiebreak lasting 17 minutes, Williams produced some howlers as four match points went begging.

At 6-5 she drew a chorus of 15,000 gasps as she smashed the ball metres over the baseline and Williams was way off target at 8-7 too, misfiring a forehand well beyond the court markings.

The American then drew on the wealth of experience that has earned her 21 grand slam titles to save a set point before sealing victory when Mladenovic belted a forehand wide.

She will next face Ukrainian 18th seed Elina Svitolina.

IMAGE: Elina Svitolina of Ukraine during her third round match against Ana Ivanovic of Serbia. Photograph: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images.

Ana Ivanovic's hopes of adding to her 2008 French Open success ended rather tamely on Saturday as she was beaten by Ukrainian 18th seed Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-4 in the third round.

A year ago, it seemed as if Ivanovic may be emerging from a prolonged slump after making it to the Paris semi-finals for the first time since her title run.

However, the Serbian 14th seed's form has nosedived over the past 12 months and she has since failed to progress past the third round of the subsequent four major tournaments.

The 28-year-old recovered from 4-1 down in the second set to level at 4-4 but the brief fightback only delayed the inevitable.

A forehand slapped into the net ended her ordeal and she pulled her white sun visor over her eyes as she made a quick exit from the Court One bullring.

IMAGE: Dominic Thiem of Austria celebrates his third round win over Alexander Zverev of Germany. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

Fast-rising Austrian Dominic Thiem out-muscled teenager Alexander Zverev 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to reach his first grand-slam fourth round.

The 22-year-old 13th seed, already leading the charts for claycourt wins this year, was cool, calm and composed as he recovered from the loss of the opening set to make it three wins in four weeks against the German.

Thiem now has his eyes on a deep run with Spain's unseeded Marcel Granollers waiting in the last 16 rather than nine-times champion and fourth seed Rafael Nadal who withdrew on Friday because of a wrist injury.

Zverev, 19, showed just why he is being tipped to lead the new generation of players when he took a high-quality first set.

Thiem took charge thereafter, however.

"We've played three times in four weeks and the other two went to three sets and now this went to four, so I knew it was going to be tough," Thiem, like Zverev a former junior finalist here, said on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

"This was my first match on a big court at Roland Garros and it was a great experience."

IMAGE: Ernests Gulbis (rights) comforts Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who retires injured. Photograph: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters.

Meanwhile, French sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retired injured from his third-round match against Latvia's Ernests Gulbis.

Tsonga, who reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros last year, was leading 5-2 when a problem with his left knee forced him to quit.

Gulbis will face either Belgian 12th seed David Goffin or Spain's Nicolas Almagro in the next round.

IMAGE: Venus Williams of the United States volleys during her third round match against Alize Cornet of France. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

Ninth seed Venus Williams reached the fourth round of the French Open for the first time since 2010 when she downed French hope Alize Cornet 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-0 in a rain-disrupted match.

Williams, whose best result at Roland Garros came in 2002 when she lost to her sister Serena in the final, will next face Swiss eighth seed Timea Bacsinszky.

After the tie was interrupted by rain for 2-1/2 hours early on, the American relied on her experience to bag the opening set tiebreak but she visibly tired in the second as Cornet easily levelled the contest.

The seven-times grand slam champion was back to her best for the decider, wrapping it up with an exquisite sliced crosscourt backhand winner.

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