Off-colour Alcaraz made to work to beat qualifier

Carlos Alcaraz celebrates a point
Carlos Alcaraz reached the semi-finals of last year's French Open [Getty Images]

An off-colour Carlos Alcaraz had to dig deep to beat inspired qualifier Jesper de Jong and reach the French Open third round.

Spain's Alcaraz looked subdued at times in a 6-3 6-4 2-6 6-2 victory over a player ranked 173 places below him.

Dutchman De Jong played well above his ranking but it was a rusty performance from Alcaraz, who had to twice come back from a break down in the fourth set.

"I prefer not to spend too much time on the court, I want to be in good shape for the next round but every match is different," Alcaraz said.

"I was in trouble at points. Jesper and I put on a good show."

Alcaraz will face either American Sebastian Korda or Kwon Soon-woo of South Korea next.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 2022 runner-up, and Andrey Rublev won their matches but no play was possible on the outside courts because of persistent rain.

Second seed Jannik Sinner will play Richard Gasquet in the night session on Court Phillipe Chatrier - one of two courts at Roland Garros to have a roof.

This was almost the exact opposite of third seed Alcaraz's dominant first-round win against lucky loser JJ Wolf.

The 21-year-old still had a compression sleeve on his right forearm - an injury which impacted his preparations for Roland Garros - and his lack of match practice showed.

After a relatively straightforward first two sets, it was as though Alcaraz's concentration began to drift, often following a good shot with one that sailed wide or found the net.

He made 47 unforced errors, most of which came in the third set as he quickly went a double break down.

It looked as though the match could get even trickier for Alcaraz as he was immediately broken at the start of the fourth set, once again on a long forehand.

However, he seemed to re-engage in the next game as he got to 30-30 on the De Jong serve. His team did their best to encourage him and, as De Jong sent a forehand into the net, Alcaraz seemed more like himself.

The two traded breaks once again, with the set level at 2-2 before Alcaraz pulled away, helped by a tiring De Jong, who beat Britain's Jack Draper in five sets in the first round.

Alcaraz will, howeve, know that tougher tests await as he attempts to secure a third major title.

"The energy that I received from the people to forget about the third set and be at my best in the fourth set was really helpful to me," he added.

Tennis talk with Badosa 'a breath of fresh air' for Tsitsipas

Stefanos Tsitsipas hits a backhand
Stefanos Tsitsipas had a two-set lead over Novak Djokovic in the 2022 French Open final before falling to defeat [Getty Images]

Greek ninth seed Tsitsipas overcame a third-set wobble to beat Germany's Daniel Altmaier 6-3 6-2 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 and continue his bid for a first Grand Slam title.

Tsitsipas had a mixed start to the season but won his third Monte Carlo Masters title and reached a second clay-court final in Barcelona, losing to Casper Ruud.

He intends to play mixed doubles in Paris with his partner, former world number two Paula Badosa of Spain, and said the pair talk about tennis "all the time".

"We both share the same passion and we both do the same thing in life," Tsitsipas, who will face either Lorenzo Sonego or Zhang Zhizhen next, said.

"So to have a person by your side that you love and can comfortably and mutually and reciprocally talk about tennis in our case, I think it's a breath of fresh air.

"In my case, that person knows a lot about tennis and analyses the game pretty well."

Russian sixth seed Rublev, playing under the roof on Court Suzanne Lenglen, won 6-3 6-4 6-3 against Spain's Pedro Martinez.