Novak Djokovic starts French Open defence with a hard-fought victory

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Novak Djokovic

29th May 2024 – (Paris) Novak Djokovic kicked off his title defence at the French Open with a solid win on Tuesday, battling through a challenging opening-round match against French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert to secure a 6-4, 6-7(7-3), 6-4 victory.

The Serbian tennis star is aiming to make history by becoming the first player in the sport to claim 25 Grand Slam singles titles at Roland Garros, where he has previously lifted the trophy three times.

Reflecting on his performance, Djokovic commented, “I thought it was a good performance for me. Solid. Of course, I could have done better, I think, on return games, but also credit to him for serving very well and changing things up. I don’t want to get too excited.”

In contrast to his usual high standards, Djokovic’s results in 2024 have fallen short. This season marks only the second time since winning his first ATP singles title in 2006 that he arrived at Roland Garros without reaching a final at any level.

However, Djokovic remains confident in his abilities, particularly in Grand Slam tournaments, where he typically performs at his best. He stated, “I know what I’m capable of, and I have mostly been able to play my best tennis throughout my career, so that’s the goal.”

The first set swiftly went in Djokovic’s favor, with impressive statistics to boost his confidence. He hit 11 winners with just two unforced errors, losing only three points on serve. The following sets proved more challenging, partly due to Herbert’s inspired and bold play, as well as Djokovic’s fluctuating level.

Yet, Djokovic’s mental resilience, a well-known trait of his, proved crucial in the second set, which significantly impacted the match’s overall momentum. He successfully served to stay in the set twice, displaying composure and skill. Winning five of the first six points in the tie-breaker alleviated any frustrations for the top seed.

“I was in a complicated situation because I couldn’t find the right position to return his serves, so it was very important to stay focused. If he had won that second set, it would’ve been a different match,” acknowledged the 37-year-old Djokovic, who is set to face Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena in the second round.

In the women’s draw, second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka breezed through to the second round with a commanding 6-1, 6-2 victory over Erika Andreeva. Sabalenka, the two-time reigning Australian Open champion, broke her opponent, ranked 100th in the world, five times and displayed an impressive winner-to-error ratio.

“It was a great match, a great start for me. I think I was focusing on myself the whole game. I think that’s why I was able to bring such good tennis,” Sabalenka commented. She adapted well to the humid conditions, adjusting her game to accommodate longer rallies and maintain consistency.

Norwegian seventh seed Casper Ruud, a two-time finalist, also advanced to the next round with a straight-set win over qualifier Felipe Meligeni Alves, securing a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory.