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Djokovic Dominant In Roland Garros Opener

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Serbian begins quest for 18th Grand Slam title

Eight days after clinching his fifth Internazionali BNL d’Italia title in Rome, Novak Djokovic took no time to recover his best level at Roland Garros on Tuesday.

The World No. 1 dropped just five games to breeze past Mikael Ymer 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 on the new Court Philippe-Chatrier, proving too consistent for his opponent as he recorded his 16th consecutive first-round victory at the Paris major. Djokovic was particularly impressive behind his return, winning 61 per cent of return points (44/72) throughout the one-hour, 38-minute contest..

“Obviously these conditions are different than what we are used to here at Roland Garros… I think it’s quite suitable to my style of the game,” said Djokovic. “I actually enjoyed myself on the court today.

I think I played really well. A few hiccups here and there, but I think generally the game is there. I’m ready physically, mentally, emotionally to go deep in the tournament. Hopefully I can have another successful year here in Paris.”

With his victory against Ymer, Djokovic improved to 32-1 this year. The Serbian has clinched four titles from five events in 2020, including a record-extending eighth Australian Open trophy in January.

Djokovic is chasing his 18th Grand Slam crown this fortnight. The Serbian is currently in third place on the Grand Slam titles leaderboard, two trophies behind Rafael Nadal and three short of record holder Roger Federer.

Grand Slam Titles Leaderboard

Rank Player Titles
1 Roger Federer 20
2 Rafael Nadal 19
3 Novak Djokovic 17
4 Pete Sampras 14
5 Roy Emerson 12

Djokovic is also attempting to become the first player in the Open Era — and only the third man in history — to capture multiple titles at each of the four major championships. Australians Roy Emerson and Rod Laver are the only men to have previously achieved the feat.

Djokovic will face Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania in the second round. The 30-year-old saved all six break points he faced to beat Hugo Dellien 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 on Court 11. Djokovic owns a 2-0 ATP Head2Head record against Berankis.

Playing under the roof, Djokovic made a rapid start to the match. The 33-year-old took his groundstrokes up the line to rush Ymer and mixed up play with regular drop shots to keep his opponent off balance. Djokovic landed 10 winners and committed just one unforced error in the opener, which lasted just 20 minutes.

“I think it’s a great variety shot, the dropshot. I think it’s important tactically to have it and to use it at the right time so that you can keep your opponent always guessing what the next shot is,” said Djokovic.

“I may have played too many today, I agree. Maybe I exceeded what I should have played. But I think it worked well in the moments when I needed to get the point I did. And I thought that I kept my opponent today on the back foot constantly, because I felt comfortable to hit really any shot, being aggressive or coming to the net or mixing it up.”

After trading breaks at 1-1 in the second set, Djokovic regained his focus to win four straight games. The 2016 champion closed the set with a love service hold, serving and volleying on set point to move one set from victory.

The drop shots continued to flow from Djokovic’s racquet, with varied success, in the third set. The 17-time Grand Slam champion made the crucial move at 3-3, breaking serve in an extended rally with a driven crosscourt backhand winner. Djokovic moved up the court to strike a forehand winner up the line on match point.

Ymer was making his second appearance in the Roland Garros main draw, following his run to the second round on his Grand Slam debut last year. The Swede, who competed at last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals, owns a 6-7 tour-level record this year.

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Some people have a problem with me, but I do not like pretending,’ says Novak Djokovic

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Novak Djokovic says he knows some people have a ‘problem’ with him openly disclosing his ambitions, but it’s not going to stop him.

Djokovic has made secret of the fact he wants to beat Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s Grand Slam record, as well as top the Swiss’ current record for total weeks at world number one.

That attitude is in stark contrast to Federer and Nadal, who both publicly say they only want to enjoy their tennis and records are not important to them.

It brings criticism to Djokovic, who is often accused of arrogance as a result, but he says he is simply being honest.

“I do not feel the same pressure I have felt in the early stages of my career,” Djokovic told the press in Belgrade on Thursday.

“Maybe some people have a problem with me verbalizing my ambitions, but I was raised to be sincere, I do not like pretending.

“I want to end the year as number one and I want to have as big advantage as possible for the first three months of 2021, which would allow me the historic number one, one of the two biggest goals in my career.

“Pressure has been a part of my life for a long time and I’ve learnt how to deal with it,” he said.

“It comes with the territory if you are a top-level athlete and it can also galvanise you. You take physical and mental knocks along the way but it’s all part of the learning curve.

“If I retired now I’d be happy with everything I have achieved but I still enjoy competing and every tournament I enter gives me so much motivation and joy.”

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