French Open: Novak Djokovic brushes past Aleksandar Kovacevic in opener
Paris, France, (ATP) – Novak Djokovic made an imperious start to his bid for a record 23rd major crown on Monday at Roland Garros, where the Serbian dispatched Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(1) on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Kovacevic made a confident start to his Grand Slam main draw debut, but he was unable to hold his illustrious opponent back after Djokovic claimed the first break of the match in the sixth game. Despite a third-set turnaround in which the American rallied from 3-5 to force a tie-break, Djokovic held firm to complete a first-round win in which he converted five of his 12 break points and struck 41 winners to Kovacevic’s 25.
“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 a wrong side for me,” said Djokovic in his post-match press conference. “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 also considering the conditions, they were quite tricky today with a lot of wind. It was a good match.”
Two-time champion Djokovic will now take on Marton Fucsovics next in Paris.
Kovacevic had a solid start to his Grand Slam main draw debut, but he was unable to fend off his legendary opponent after Djokovic broke in the sixth game. Despite a third-set rally by the American to force a tie-break, Djokovic held firm to secure a first-round triumph in which he converted five of his 12 break opportunities and hit 41 winners to Kovacevic’s 25.
The World No. 114 in the world Kovacevic, who idolised Djokovic as a youngster and posed for a selfie with him at the 2005 US Open as a seven-year-old, had glimpses of his highest level during the two-hour, 26-minute match. However, he was unable to match Djokovic’s consistency from the baseline and had no response to the third seed’s razor-sharp return.
Despite an uncommon dip in the third set from Djokovic, the World No. 3 generally maintained a high level throughout his triumph. He hit solid groundstrokes from both wings and won 82% (37/45) of points off his first serve throughout the match.
A two-time Roland Garros champion, Djokovic can move ahead of Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam titles race with his second major triumph of the season in Paris (he also triumphed at January’s Australian Open). His next challenge in the French capital is a second-round clash with World No. 83 Marton Fucsovics.
A third victory in Paris would also secure a return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for Djokovic, who was usurped from top spot by Carlos Alcaraz three weeks ago. The 36-year-old now has 86 match wins at Roland Garros, second only to Nadal’s 112.
Who is Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic born 22 May 1987 is a Serbian professional tennis player. He is currently ranked world No. 3 in singles by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). Djokovic has been ranked world No. 1 for a record total 387 weeks in a record 12 different years, and finished as the year-end No. 1 a record seven times. He has won a joint-record 22 Grand Slam men’s singles titles, including a record ten Australian Open titles. Overall, he has won 93 singles titles, including a record 66 Big Titles, which compromises his 22 majors, a record 38 Masters titles and a joint-record 6 Year-end championships. Djokovic has completed a non-calendar year Grand Slam in singles, becoming the only man in tennis history to be the reigning champion of the four majors at once on three different surfaces. He is also the first man in the Open Era to achieve a double Career Grand Slam in singles by winning all four majors at least twice and the only player to complete the career Golden Masters in singles by winning all nine ATP Masters tournaments, a feat he achieved twice.
Djokovic began his professional career in 2003. At age 20, he disrupted Federer and Nadal’s streak of 11 consecutive majors to win his first major title at the 2008 Australian Open. By 2010, Djokovic separated himself from the rest of the field and, as a result, the trio of Federer, Nadal and him was referred to as the ‘Big Three’ among fans and commentators. In 2011, Djokovic ascended to No. 1 for the first time, winning three majors and a then-record five Masters titles, going 10–1 against Nadal and Federer along the way. He remained the most successful player in men’s tennis for the rest of the decade. In 2015, Djokovic had his most successful season, reaching 15 consecutive finals, winning a season-record 10 Big Titles and beating a record 31 top-10 players along the way. His dominant run extended through to the 2016 French Open, where he completed a non-calendar year Grand Slam and his first career Grand Slam, becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four majors simultaneously and setting a rankings points record of 16,950. In 2017, Djokovic suffered from an elbow injury which kept him struggling on court for a year, more or less, but after losing in the 2018 Australian Open, he decided to undergo surgery which helped him to get back to winning ways by the 2018 Wimbledon where he won the title while ranked No. 22 in the world. Djokovic continued being a dominant force on tour since then, winning 10 major titles and completing his second career Grand Slam by the 2021 French Open.
Djokovic was forced to skip many tournaments in 2022, due to his opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine, notably the Australian Open and the US Open, major events he was the favorite to win. Djokovic accepted the consequences of his choice and stated that it was a price he would be willing to pay as he believes that the principles of decision making on his body are more important than any title or anything else. One year after his Australian visa controversy, Djokovic made a successful comeback to Melbourne, reclaiming the 2023 Australian Open trophy for a record-equaling 22 major titles.
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