Novak Djokovic returned to the court on Wednesday, cruising past Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-3, 6-2 and strengthening his hold on top spot in the rankings after his two closest rivals both lost at the Paris Masters.
Second seed Carlos Alcaraz tumbled out against qualifier Roman Safiullin late the previous evening and earlier on Wednesday, Daniil Medvedev, seeded third, threw another Paris tantrum as he lost 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/2) to Grigor Dimitrov.
Djokovic, playing in his first individual tournament since winning the US Open in September, broke Etcheverry, an Argentine ranked 31 in the world, in the eighth game of the first set and twice in the second, to win in one hour and 24 minutes.
“At the start of the match, I had a little trouble finding my rhythm, my tempo, but by the end of the second set, it was really good,” said Djokovic, who has won at Bercy a record six times.
After beating Medvedev in the final in New York on September 10, the 36-year-old Djokovic dashed back from the US Open to help Serbia into the Davis Cup quarter-finals on September 15.
He then skipped the ATP Tour’s return to China, instead spending time with his family.
Djokovic will next play Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor.
Earlier Medvedev threatened to stop in the second set if the crowd kept whistling him, although he later said he was determined to win over the Paris fans.
Medvedev has had a series of run-ins with Parisian fans. In May, he gestured for the crowd to shut up at Roland Garros and has complained on previous visits to Bercy.
After Dimitrov took the first set on Wednesday, Medvedev broke in the sixth game of the second set and led 5-2.
When the Bulgarian broke to 5-5, Medvedev threw his racket which brought whistles from the crowd. That further upset the Russian.
“I’m not going to play when they whistle,” Medvedev shouted at the umpire.
“They’re stupid! If they don’t whistle, I’ll play!”, Medvedev said before telling the crowd. “I play guys, but shut your mouths, okay!”
After a time violation warning from the umpire, Medvedev resumed and edged the tie-break on his first set point.
“When I throw my racket, I’m allowed to get whistled at, it’s a bad reaction,” he later told the press conference. “On the other hand, if I serve, and they whistle and applaud at the same time, it’s a bit weird.”
“That’s the public at Bercy, everyone knows it, not everyone likes playing here. I played much better at Bercy when there was nobody there,” he said, mentioning his victory in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the final set, Medvedev saved six match points before forcing a tie-break in which he won two points before Dimitrov finally prevailed.
Currently in the last qualifying spot for next month’s ATP Finals in Turin, reigning Bercy champion Holger Rune stayed on track for a quarter-final meeting with Djokovic by seeing off former US Open winner Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-2.
Sixth seed Rune, now coached by Boris Becker, won his first Masters title in Paris last year by beating Djokovic in the final.
Greek seventh seed Stefanos Tsitsipas saved six of seven break points and dodged four set points as he beat Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
Dutch qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp beat 12th-seeded Tommy Paul 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 to end the American’s chances of squeezing into the top eight for the ATP Finals.
German Alexander Zverev took another big step in the race for Turin by edging out the last remaining hometown hope Ugo Humbert 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/5) in a marathon encounter.
The Frenchman displayed spirit to break Zverev as he served for the match in the second set and then level affairs with a dominant tie-break performance.
Despite this, and a partisan crowd against him, the 10th seed eventually rallied in the final set to recover from an early break and grind out an exhausting win in over three hours.
Zverev now plays Tsitsipas on Thursday in a crucial round-of-16 match that will offer up invaluable points for whoever should claim victory in this meeting between two men that have shared bad blood in the past.