FRANCE: On Monday at Roland Garros, Novak Djokovic dispatched Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(1) on Court Philippe Chatrier, giving his quest for a record-breaking 23rd major title an imperious start.
In his Grand Slam main draw debut, Kovacevic got off to a confident start, but after Djokovic broke him in the sixth game of the set, he was unable to hold back his legendary opponent.
Despite a third-set comeback by the American, who went from 3-5 to force a tie-break, Djokovic held on to seal a first-round victory in which he converted five of his 12 break points and hit 41 winners to Kovacevic’s 25.
In his post-match press conference, Djokovic said, “I think I played really well and held things under control for two and a half sets and then lost my serve and things got a little bit on the wrong side for me. But, you know, I managed to hold my nerves and played pretty much a perfect tie-break.”
“So overall [I am] pleased and content with my level. I can always play better; I know I can do it, but considering the conditions, they were quite tricky today with a lot of wind. It was a good match,” he added.
The world’s No. 114, Kovacevic, who as a youngster idolised Djokovic and posed for a photo with the Serbian at the 2005 US Open when he was seven years old, displayed glimmers of his finest play throughout the two hours and 26 minutes of play. However, he was unable to match Djokovic’s consistency from the baseline and was helpless against the third seed’s lethal return.
“He played really well, and he was handling himself very well there mentally, hanging in there,” Djokovic started, adding that “I served for the match; he broke me. I mean, credit to him for his fighting spirit.”
Despite his uncommon slip-up in the third set, Djokovic otherwise played well throughout his triumph. He won 82% (37/45) of the points behind his first serve in the game by striking his groundstrokes cleanly from both wings.
Djokovic, a two-time Roland Garros champion, can pass Rafael Nadal in the race for Grand Slam victories with his second major victory of the year in Paris (he previously won at the Australian Open in January). He will face Marton Fucsovics, the world’s 83rd-ranked player, in the second round of the tournament in the French capital.
A third victory in Paris would guarantee Djokovic’s return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings after Carlos Alcaraz usurped him three weeks ago. The 36-year-old has now won 86 matches at Roland Garros, second only to Nadal’s 112 victories there.
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