Djokovic discusses lack of confidence

PARIS (AP) — Despite all of Novak Djokovic’s success over the years — the 12 major championships, the career Grand Slam, the time ranked No. 1 — he still finds himself searching for self-confidence these days.

That’s what an elbow injury and forced absence from the ATP tour can do to a player.

Djokovic was reflective and revealing Wednesday after moving into the third round at the French Open by virtue of a self-described up-and-down performance in a 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-4 victory over 155th-ranked Jaume Antoni Munar Clar of Spain. Both of Djokovic’s matches so far have been against qualifiers; neither win was particularly impressive.

“At the moment, I’m not playing at the level I wish to, but at the same time, I understand that it is the process that obviously takes time,” said Djokovic, whose seeding of No. 20 is his lowest at a Slam in 12 years. “And I’m trying to not give up.”

At least he got through in straight sets, saving energy for whatever might come next at Roland Garros. Other leading men were forced to work a lot harder in matches they would have been expected to breeze through: No. 2-seeded Alexander Zverev, No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 19 Kei Nishikori all faced two-sets-to-one deficits and all emerged to win Wednesday.

Zverev was down by a set and a break early — and down a racket he’d obliterated by then, too — before collecting himself and coming back to beat 60th-ranked Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 2-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. Dimitrov was two points from defeat against 21-year-old American Jared Donaldson but won 6-7 (2), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 in a marathon that lasted 4 hours, 19 minutes and featured a couple of underhand serves by the cramping Donaldson. Nishikori got past Benoit Paire of France 6-3, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Among the women, No. 1 Simona Halep shook off a slow start in a postponed first-round match to defeat Alison Riske of the U.S. 2-6, 6-1, 6-1, while second-round winners included reigning major champions Caroline Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens, along with No. 4 Elina Svitolina, No. 8 Petra Kvitova and No. 13 Madison Keys.

Stephens has dropped only six games in her first two matches at the French Open.

Those victories have impressed former U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe, who now believes the reigning U.S. Open champion can claim a second Grand Slam title at Roland Garros.

“Just FYI. Sloane Stephens is winning this tournament,” McEnroe tweeted after Stephens dispatched qualifier Magdalena Frech 6-2, 6-2 in just over an hour on Wednesday.

The 10th-seeded American player, who never got past the fourth round in her six previous appearances at the tournament, is more cautious. She missed the tournament last year and went through a stretch of poor results after winning at Flushing Meadows. She knows getting carried away would be a big mistake.

There is a very long way to go for Stephens, who has yet to meet top contenders in Paris. She will face a more serious test in the third round against Camila Giorgi of Italy, who has lost only eight games in the first two matches.

Giorgi has beaten Stephens twice in their three meetings, including a 6-3, 6-0 rout in Sidney this year on hard court. Stephens does not give too much importance to that result, though, as it came during her post-U.S. Open struggles following a knee injury.