PARIS — In his first singles match since missing out on a calendar-year Grand Slam, Novak Djokovic beat Marton Fucsovics 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in the second round of the Paris Masters on Tuesday.
No. 1 ranked Djokovic showed signs of rustiness with a couple of unforced errors in the opening game, but he put pressure on his Hungarian opponent with the quality of his service returns, breaking him twice in the first set.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion dropped serve with a forehand error to trail 2-1 in the second set. Fucsovics leveled the set score when Djokovic hit a return long.
Clearly not at the top of his game, a roaring Djokovic punched the air after whipping a forehand pass to hold serve in the third game of the final set. He broke for a 4-2 lead when Fucsovics sent a backhand long before converting his second match point with a forehand winner.
“It was a great fight,” Djokovic said. “We kind of pushed each other to the limit. It was a great opening match for me, I’m very pleased.”
Djokovic could clinch the year-end No. 1 ranking in Paris before the end of the season and break a tie with Pete Sampras with a record seventh year-end No. 1 finish.
“Now it’s about finding that match-play intensity and playing more points,” Djokovic said. “And the more points I play, you know, the more matches I play, I’m going to get better.”
The top-ranked Serbian has lifted the Paris Masters trophy a record five times and could break a tie with Rafael Nadal for the most Masters 1000 titles won. Nadal and Djokovic have won 36 Masters 1000 titles each, eight more than Roger Federer.
Djokovic came up one victory short of a calendar-year Grand Slam when he lost to Daniil Medvedev at the U.S. Open in September.
Also Tuesday, Felix Auger-Aliassime stayed in contention for a place at the ATP Finals by beating Italian qualifier Gianluca Mager 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the first round.
The ninth-seeded Auger-Aliassime hit two double-faults and sent a forehand wide to allow Mager to serve out the first set. But he leveled the match when Mager double-faulted on set point in the second.
Auger-Aliassime then broke Mager twice in the third.
“I had difficulty with my pace at the beginning of the match. I didn’t hit enough first serves so I had a bit of pressure on my second serve,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I bounced back in the second set. I tried to find solutions in returns, changing my positions, varying my returns. And after returning so well, I created occasions and I won the second set and then I finished very well.”
Qualifying for the ATP Finals would cap a good season for the 21-year-old Canadian, who reached the semifinals at the U.S. Open and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. He also reached the final at the Murray River Open in Melbourne and the Stuttgart Open in Germany.
Djokovic, Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev and Matteo Berrettini have already qualified for the ATP Finals. Auger-Aliassime, Casper Ruud, Jannik Sinner, Hubert Hurkacz and Cameron Norrie are among the players hoping to join the eight-man tournament.
American players Reilly Opelka, Tommy Paul and Taylor Fritz also advanced to the second round, as did Karen Khachanov of Russia, Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and James Duckworth of Australia.
Opelka, the runner-up in Toronto, hit 19 aces while beating Filip Krajinovic of Serbia 6-3, 7-6 (4), while Fritz defeated Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 and Paul beat Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 6-3, 6-4.