Top seed Djokovic, looking for a Roland Garros title to complete a career Grand Slam, claimed his 50th win at the tournament by seeing off Belgian qualifier Steve Darcis 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. It was the Serb’s third win in three career meetings with Darcis, a player nicknamed ‘Shark’ who dumped Nadal out of Wimbledon in 2013. But it was a far from a smooth display from the 11-time major winner and three-time French Open runner-up who committed 42 unforced errors.
“He plays with a lot of speed, is good from the baseline and it was not easy for me to play the points the way I wanted,” Djokovic said of 32-year-old Darcis. “He has a lot of talent and it was tough. I am happy to have won in three sets.”
Djokovic next takes on Britain’s Slovenian-born Aljaz Bedene who reached the third round of a major for the first time with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 4-6, 5-7, 6-2 win over Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.
Nine-time champion Nadal became just the eighth man to rack up 200 Grand Slam match wins as he saw off Argentina’s world number 99 -- and fellow left-hander -- Facundo Bagnis 6-3, 6-0, 6-3. Nadal, 29, dropped the first two games against Bagnis but then won 18 of the next 22 to ease into a last-32 clash against either Spanish compatriot Marcel Granollers or Nicolas Mahut of France.
“The most important thing is a victory in the second round more than the 200 victories,” said Nadal, who now has a 72-2 win-loss record at Roland Garros and only dropped three games in his opening victory over Sam Groth of Australia.
Roger Federer, missing from the French Open this year, tops the all-time list of Grand Slam matches won on 302. Djokovic is sixth on the list with 216 after his win on Thursday.
Later Thursday, defending women’s champion Serena Williams continues her campaign to win a 22nd Grand Slam title and equal the record set by Steffi Graf. The 34-year-old top seed faces world number 81 Teliana Pereira of Brazil who has never got beyond the second round of a Grand Slam.
Venus Williams follows her sister on Court Suzanne Lenglen against American compatriot Louisa Chirico.
The 20-year-old Chirico, ranked at 78 in the world, came through qualifying and won her first match at the Grand Slam level by beating fellow American Lauren Davis in the opening round.
Also reaching the third round on Thursday were 2010 semi-finalist Tomas Berdych, the seventh seeded Czech, who defeated Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-1, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis, who beat Federer on his way to the semi-finals in 2014, made the last-32 with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 win over Portugal’s 26th seed Joao Sousa.
But going out was Australian 20th seed Bernard Tomic, beaten 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (8/6) by Croatian 19-year-old Borna Coric.