3rd June 2023 – (Paris) Novak Djokovic, the 22-time Grand Slam winner, displayed his nerves of steel on Friday as he outlasted tough Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-2 to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros for the 14th consecutive year.
In an entertaining first set, Djokovic twice fell a break of serve behind as Davidovich Fokina’s clean hitting pulled the Serbian all around Court Philippe-Chatrier. However, Djokovic reclaimed the break on both occasions before raising his level in the tie-break to clinch the set with a stunning forehand return winner.
“I knew it was going to be a very difficult match, a very physical match,” said Djokovic.
The second set saw Djokovic squander the chance to serve for the set at 5-4, as Davidovich Fokina fought back to level the score and take the lead 6-5. Djokovic even had to save a set point in the 12th game before finding another gear in the tie-break, winning a series of breathtaking rallies to move further clear.
“We played three hours for only two sets. He contested very well. He is an amazing fighter and an amazing player. He has very few weaknesses in his game. Congratulations to him for fighting. Bad luck, but he played a great match,” added Djokovic, who let out a roar after winning the second set and raised his fist to the crowd in celebration.
Djokovic was more commanding in the third set, racing to victory after clinching it 6-2.
In the round of 16, Djokovic will face Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas.
Elsewhere in the tournament, Spanish top seed Carlos Alcaraz, who was drawn into the same half with Djokovic, also moved one step closer to his second Grand Slam title after beating Canadian 26th seed Denis Shapovalov 6-1, 6-4, 6-2. The reigning US Open winner will play Lorenzo Musetti of Italy for a place in the quarterfinals.
Russia’s seventh seed Andrey Rublev, who has reached the quarterfinals in his previous three Grand Slam appearances, suffered a shock defeat as he relinquished a two-set lead in a five-set thriller against Lorenzo Sonego which ended 5-7, 0-6, 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3.
Fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, the runner-up in 2021, breezed past Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.
In the women’s draw, World No. 3 Jessica Pegula became the highest-ranked player to fall at the French Open after suffering a third-round defeat to Belgium’s Elise Mertens, 6-1, 6-3. Pegula’s 28 unforced errors during the hour and 22-minute match were one of the reasons that crashed her play, compared with only 13 from her opponent.
Mertens held easily to take the opening set after just 26 minutes, and when she broke Pegula in the first game of the second, it looked like she would cruise to victory. The 27-year-old seized all breakpoints, converting all five chances to secure a spot in the round of 16 at Roland Garros for a second consecutive year.
Next for Mertens will be 24th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who overcame Russian compatriot Anastasia Potapova 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.
Second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, eyeing her second Grand Slam title after winning the Australian Open earlier this year, soared into the fourth round with a comfortable 6-2, 6-2 victory over Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova in only one hour and seven minutes.