From chump to champ, bonehead to figurehead. What a difference a year makes.

On this weekend in 2020, Novak Djokovic was partying like it was, well, 2019, after the first leg of the Adria Tour, limbo-dancing in a Belgrade cabaret club, mask-free, carefree, some might say cluelessly.

Within days, he had tested positive for COVID-19, as had Djokovic's wife Jelena, along with Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Goran Ivanisevic. The tournament that Djokovic had organised was in disarray and plans to take it to five Balkan cities were abandoned when the second event in Zadar was called off before its final.

Nick Kyrgios, incredulous at home in Australia, called it a "boneheaded" decision to play the events, and Djokovic made a grovelling apology, saying he was "so deeply sorry" for the harm that had been caused.

The main tennis tours had ground to a necessary halt, but Djokovic could not resist moving, cavorting.

He might feel like hitting up a Parisian nightclub after Sunday's breathtaking comeback against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the French Open final, the first time he has come from two sets down to win a grand slam final, but even if they were open, Djokovic has probably learnt his lesson. He taught Tsitsipas a thing or two in this Roland Garros epic, too, primarily this: however much a grand slam title match feels in your control, these major finals are not like any you have played before.

So now Djokovic has 19 major titles, one behind all-time leaders Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal heading into Wimbledon in two weeks' time. He is the first man in the Open Era to win two or more titles at each of the four grand slams.

When Tsitsipas followed a thrilling opening set here by breezing through the second against the world number one, establishing a two-set cushion, his maiden slam final was going as well as he could possibly have hoped. His serve was potent, his biggest shots were landing in, and he had the measure of Djokovic's delivery: the Serbian won just 35 per cent of points on his second serve over those opening two sets.

Nine winners to just two unforced errors from Tsitsipas in that second set showed who was in charge. Djokovic had taken an early fall in the match: was that a factor?

Yet in the fourth game of the third set, Djokovic landed a punch so loaded that it caused Tsitsipas to wobble for the next hour, saving three game points on the Greek's serve before snatching the break at his own fourth opportunity.

The 11-minute game evoked memories of how Djokovic took down Nadal in their magnificent semi-final, Tsitsipas flinging a despairing backhand just wide to slide 3-1 behind, his resistance broken, his momentum gone.

Djokovic has suffered in the past following marathon grand slam semi-finals, including in Paris last October when he battled past Tsitsipas in five and then won just seven games against Nadal.

Friday's four hours and 11 minutes of hard battle against Nadal was as draining as such matches come, so from where had Djokovic found this renewed energy? Tsitsipas, seeing the title slip away, needed a big sip from whatever well from which the Serbian was drinking.

An astonishing angled drop shot from Djokovic in the third game of the decider showed his scrambling, sprinting energy was only heightening in its intensity, and he backed up that effort with a break moments later.

Tsitsipas had largely rediscovered his game, but the prospect of a pair of first-time singles champions at Roland Garros, for the first time since the Gaston Gaudio-Anastasia Myskina double in 2004, was ebbing away. It was soon all over.

After the Adria Tour howler and his US Open disqualification clanger, Djokovic began his 2021 season on a positive note with a ninth Australian Open title. Now he has a second French Open, and we can seriously start to think about a calendar year sweep of the grand slams. He has won seven of his majors since turning 30, the most by anyone in the Open Era, and it feels safe to say there are more to come.

Twelve months ago, it was a case of 'how low can you go?' as Djokovic dipped under that limbo pole.

Suddenly we can start to ask: are there no limits to the heights this remarkable man might scale?

Novak Djokovic made history in sensational fashion by storming back from two sets down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in a pulsating French Open final.

Tsitsipas looked to be on course to become the first Greek major champion, but legendary top seed Djokovic produced a stirring fightback to win a thriller 6-7 (6-8) 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 at Roland Garros on Sunday.

The indefatigable world number one etched his name in the record books on Court Philippe-Chatrier, becoming the first man in the Open Era - and only the third of all time - to triumph at each grand slam at least twice.

Djokovic had never won a major from two sets behind in a championship match but is just one shy of the record tally of 20 grand slam titles held by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who he beat in an epic semi-final on Friday.

Tsitsipas appeared to be increasingly hampered by a hip injury as he endured heartbreak in his first grand slam final.

The 2016 champion won three service games without losing a point in a strong start on a sunny afternoon in Paris and there was relief when he picked himself up following a fall at speed while running at full tilt trying to retrieve return a deft drop shot.

A sprightly Tsitsipas was feeding off the energy of the crowd and had a set point after Djokovic skewed a forehand wide, but the 34-year-old showed the mentality of an all-time great to get himself out of a hole and broke in the next game when a stray forehand from the fifth seed put him 6-5 down.

Djokovic was clearly struggling with the sun in his eyes as he failed to serve out the set and Tsitsipas charged into a 4-0 lead in a brilliant tie-break, which he eventually won after saving a set point with a majestic forehand winner down the line.

Tsitsipas maintained the momentum, breaking in the opening game of the second set when Djokovic sent a forehand beyond the baseline and continuing to show rapid pace over the court.

The 22-year-old was relentless, returning superbly and unleashing a serious of glorious winners as he went a double break up before serving out the set in ruthless fashion.

Yet Djokovic hit back like he has done so many times over the years in the third set, taking a 3-1 lead by grasping his fifth break-point opportunity of a marathon game in which he put his opponent under huge pressure with a string of searing, precise returns. 

The Serbian's forehand was firing on all cylinders as he sealed the set, then broke in the first game of the fourth and again to lead 3-0 with a sublime drop shot.

Tsitsipas' unforced error count was rising rapidly and he was not moving as freely, with the wind in Djokovic's sails as he levelled the match.

World number five Tsitsipas held after saving a break point in the first game of the decider but Djokovic was not to be denied a 2-1 lead, forcing an error as he continued to show astonishing staying power along with finesse and power.

Tsitsipas showed great fight but Djokovic served out a match of such high drama to get his hands on La Coupe des Mousquetaires once again.

Novak Djokovic described beating Rafael Nadal at the French Open as the tennis equivalent of scaling Mount Everest – and it will be how he copes with the descent that dictates his prospects in Sunday's final.

Researchers have pointed to that being the real danger on Everest expeditions, and there are perils involved in a tennis comedown too, although Djokovic was optimistic he would be ready for Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Roland Garros title match.

"I'm not the freshest guy right now obviously," Djokovic said after his four hours and 11 minutes epic semi-final against Nadal.

"The good thing is that I have a day and a half to rejuvenate and try to regroup, think about my next opponent."

The world number one intended to spend a large part of Saturday resting up before, as he put it, "hopefully being able to be fit to compete in the best-of-five with a guy who is in a great shape".

"It's not the first time that I've played an epic semi-final in a grand slam and then I've had to come back in less than 48 hours and play finals," Djokovic said.

"My recovery abilities are pretty good, I must say, throughout my career. Obviously my physiotherapist will try to do everything possible so I can be fresh.

"Because I played enough tennis, I don't need to train too much. It's really now just about taking things slowly until the day of the finals. I know what I need to do.

"Obviously Tsitsipas, first time in the finals of a grand slam, if I'm not mistaken. For him it's a great achievement, but I'm sure he doesn't want to stop there.

"He's in great form. I think he leads the rankings, race rankings, this year. He's had his best results overall. I think he matured as a player a lot.

"Clay is arguably his best surface. We played an epic five-setter last year in the semis here. I know it's going to be another tough one. I'm hoping I can recharge my batteries as much as I can because I'm going to need some power and energy for that one."

As much as Djokovic might recoil at the possibility of a brutal semi-final taking a heavy toll, there is evidence, contrary to his assessment, that he can struggle to raise his game for a grand slam title match after expending great energy in getting there.

It took him three hours and 54 minutes to score a five-set win over Tsitsipas in last year's Roland Garros semi-finals, and that was followed by a drubbing at Nadal's hands in the final. Djokovic won just seven games.

Before Friday's majestic clash with Nadal, the last time Djokovic had played a four-hour-plus semi-final at the French Open was in 2015 when he fended off Andy Murray in a gruelling five-setter. He went on to lose the final against world number nine Stan Wawrinka.

Djokovic also won a four-hour semi-final battle with Wawrinka at the 2013 US Open before losing to Nadal in the final, and earlier that year he fought off Juan Martin del Potro in a magnificent Wimbledon semi-final that lasted four hours and 43 minutes before being beaten by Murray in the title match.

If Djokovic is searching for recent evidence of his ability to follow a marathon semi-final with a match-winning turn in the title match, he would have to go back to Wimbledon in 2018, and even then there were circumstances that to some extent favoured the Serbian.

It took five hours and 15 minutes for Djokovic to overhaul Nadal in their All England Club semi-final which spanned two days, and he went on to demolish South African Kevin Anderson in the final.

However, that was hardly surprising given Anderson needed six hours and 24 minutes on the Friday to get past John Isner in his own semi-final – the longest semi-final in Wimbledon history.

That was after Anderson beat Roger Federer 13-11 in the deciding set of a marathon quarter-final, the upshot being that even if Djokovic was weary for the final after beating Nadal, he was facing a man who was practically out on his feet.

All this being said, Djokovic begins the final as favourite as he seeks a second French Open title in his sixth final appearance, and a 19th grand slam title overall.

Should he win, it would make him just the third man in history to win all four grand slam titles at least twice, after Roy Emerson and Rod Laver, and the first man to achieve that feat in the Open Era.

Amid all the talk of the 34-year-old Djokovic needing to physically recover, Tsitsipas' five-set semi-final exertions against Alexander Zverev are rather being overlooked.

That match clocked in at three hours and 37 minutes and will have been mentally and physically sapping for the 22-year-old Greek player, who, as Djokovic accurately pointed out, does lead the ATP Race to Turin standings, the table of 2021 form that decides the line-up for the ATP Finals in November.

Tsitsipas fended off a Zverev comeback, as the German recovered from two sets behind to force a decider on Friday, with the world number five showing serious big-game mettle in turning the momentum back his way.

The man who grew up near Athens, dreaming of playing on Court Philippe Chatrier, took a set off Djokovic when they met on clay in the Rome quarter-finals last month.

Now he has a first grand slam title in his sights, and looks as well equipped as any of the rising generation of young players to carry off multiple majors over the coming years.

"I'm proud of myself. I actually love what I'm doing," Tsitsipas said. "I love that I get to play in this stadium. I'm grateful for every single match that I get to play.

"I'm obviously just blessed to have the opportunity to play against the best and test myself, something that I've always dreamed and wished to happen one day. I'm able to be here and really going for it. I love that."

But as well as soaking in the experience, Tsitsipas wants to show he can be a champion at the highest level.

"It's time for me to go for my chances," he said. "I'm looking forward to that challenge. I'm looking forward to bringing my game to kind of challenge myself to step it up."

Novak Djokovic described the thrilling four-set win over Rafael Nadal that took him through to the French Open final as "the best match I was ever part of in Roland Garros".

A magnificent contest between two of the all-time greats saw 13-time French Open winner and reigning champion Nadal beaten 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The match, which ran to four hours and 11 minutes, was of such a level that tournament organisers sought and were awarded special dispensation to bypass the curfew which had been due to take effect at 23:00 local time.

It appeared, at the end of the third set, that spectators were about to be asked to leave the grounds, and the beginning of an announcement was booed as fans feared the worst.

But the message turned out to be as uplifting as the tennis, which was remarkable, Djokovic avenging his straight-sets loss in last year's title match.

"It was definitely the best match that I was ever part of in Roland Garros for me, and top three matches that I ever played in my entire career," Djokovic said.

"Considering the quality of tennis, playing my biggest rival on the court where he has had so much success and has been the dominant force in the last 15-plus years, and the atmosphere which was completely electric. For both players there was a lot of support. Just amazing.

"I was very happy that there was no curfew. I heard there was a special waiver, so they allowed the crowd to stay. Just one of these nights and matches that you will remember forever.

"It's hard to find words bigger than all the superlatives you can think of for Rafa's achievements in Roland Garros. He has been the most dominant player of Roland Garros history.

"He lost two, now three times, in his entire career. He's been playing here almost 20 years. That achievement speaks for itself."

Nadal raced into a 5-0 lead, but momentum was turning Djokovic's way by the time the Spaniard crept over the finish line in that opening set.

Djokovic becomes the first player to beat Nadal twice at Roland Garros, having done so previously in the 2015 quarter-finals, and the first man to defeat him in a semi-final at the clay-court grand slam. He now leads their all-courts career head-to-head by 30 wins to 28.

"Each time you step on the court with him, you know that you have to kind of climb Mount Everest to win against this guy here," Djokovic, the 2016 champion, said. "I had won only once in I think our eight matches that we ever played in Chatrier here in Roland Garros.

"I tried to take some positives and some cues from that match in 2015 that I won against him to implement tonight, which worked out very nicely. But it's just one of these matches that I really will remember for a very long time, not just because I won the match but because of the atmosphere and just the occasion was very special."

Nadal saw his hopes of a record 21st grand slam title this weekend slip away. That would have taken him past Roger Federer and into the outright all-time lead, but should Djokovic now carry off the trophy by beating Stefanos Tsitsipas, that will put the world number one on 19 slams, ahead of a Wimbledon championship for which he will start as many people's clear favourite.

The Big Three could all be on 20 slams in a matter of weeks.

Assessing a rare loss at his favourite tournament, Nadal said: "That's sport, you know. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I tried to give my best. Probably it was not my best day out there. Even if I fought and put in a lot of effort, the position on the shots haven't been that effective.

"Against a player like him that takes the ball early, you are not able to take him out of his positions, then it is very difficult, no?"

Nadal served eight double faults and perhaps the key error was a straightforward volley that he sent long in the tie-break, but the 35-year-old put in a typically warrior-like performance.

"These kind of mistakes can happen. But if you want to win, you can't make these mistakes," Nadal said. "So that's it. Well done for him. It has been a good fight out there. I tried my best, and today was not my day."

Novak Djokovic became the first player to beat Rafael Nadal twice at the French Open as he slowly picked apart the 13-time champion in a semi-final for the ages.

The world number one won 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 in four hours and 11 minutes, setting up a shot at Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday's final.

Djokovic got the better of Nadal in the quarter-finals in 2015, winning that one in straight sets, but this was an epic.

It even saw tournament organisers seek and receive permission to delay the event's curfew to allow spectators inside Court Philippe Chatrier to see it through to the end.

Nadal burst into a 5-0 lead in the opening set, evoking memories of his bagel that began last October's straight-sets dismantling of Serbian Djokovic in the final.

This match would not follow a similar plotline, however, and when Djokovic broke Nadal's serve on the way to getting back to 5-3, it was game on again.

Six set points came and went for Nadal, but the seventh went the Spaniard's way when Djokovic netted. It was already enthralling but there was better to come.

Djokovic sped 2-0 ahead in the second set but Nadal snatched back the break immediately and to love, sealing the game with a whipped forehand down the line.

This was a battle and Nadal was wobbling, especially when Djokovic had 0-40 against the Spaniard's serve in game six. Nadal saved two but not the third as Djokovic went 4-2 ahead. The rallies were glorious, the tension hard to bear, yet this was just the second set.

Djokovic's level dipped in the ninth game and Nadal had two break-back points but could take neither. When Djokovic survived that test, he had both a set and the momentum in his favour.

The greatest clay-court player in history was the first man to crack in the third set, Nadal broken despite saving two break points. Amid astonishing scenes of sporting theatre, Djokovic then saved two break points himself, windmilling his arms as the crowd – Nadal's crowd – chanted "Novak, Novak".

But Nadal kept coming, earning another break point, and this one he converted with a forehand down the line. They traded breaks again, Djokovic first and then, just when he was looking floored, a revived Nadal. One set all, five games all, three hours in. Nadal had a set point at 6-5 but an audacious drop shot rescued Djokovic.

Nerve failed Nadal with a volley at 4-3 in the tie-break, putting a relatively easy putaway over the baseline, and that proved costly, Djokovic seeing it out with an ace followed by a perfectly placed shot into his lunging opponent's forehand corner.

It seemed the contest was destined to finish in front of empty stands, but then came an announcement that the late-night curfew would be lifted for one night only.

"In agreement with the national authorities, the match will be allowed to continue to its end in your presence," the crowd were told. They began booing as the statement began, before realising the anticipated bad news was not coming.

Nadal broke serve in game one of the fourth set, but double faults were beginning to drip from his racket and his seventh of the match helped Djokovic soon get back on terms at 2-2.

And Djokovic broke again to lead 4-2, landing a service return on the baseline, with Nadal only able to dab the ball back into the net. He held in double quick time, and another double fault from Nadal set the tone for the final game. It was Djokovic's day and he completed a streak of six successive games to earn that final berth.
 

Data Slam: One step closer to 20 for Djokovic

If Nadal had seen off Djokovic here and followed up by beating Tsitsipas in the title match, he would have moved to 21 grand slam titles, going above Roger Federer and into the all-time lead for most singles majors in the men's game.

Instead the result opens the door for Djokovic to land his 19th slam this weekend, and very soon the Big Three could be tied together on 20. Perhaps they will finish their careers that way, but the way Djokovic fought here was a telling sign he believes he will finish his career top of the pile.

He is the first man to beat the Spaniard in a French Open semi-final, and he richly deserved this success.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 50/37
Nadal – 48/55

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 6/3
Nadal – 6/8

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 8/22
Nadal – 6/16

Novak Djokovic did not try to play it cool after setting up a dream Roland Garros showdown with Rafael Nadal. 

The world number one defeated Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 Wednesday to secure a semi-final match-up with the 13-time French Open champion. 

Djokovic admitted his meetings with Nadal are "not like any other match" and said he expects a "great battle" Friday when the pair meet for the 58th time. 

"Let's face it, it's the biggest challenge that you can have playing on clay against Nadal on this court in which he has had so much success in his career," Djokovic told a press conference. "In the final stages of a grand slam, it doesn't get bigger than that.

"Of course, each time we face each other, there's that extra tension and expectations. Just vibes are different walking on the court with him.

"But that's why our rivalry has been historic I think for this sport. I've been privileged to play him so many times."

Djokovic holds a narrow edge against the man he called his biggest rival, with 29 victories to Nadal's 28, but the Spaniard has won the last two meetings -- including a straight-sets triumph in the French Open final last year. 

"Obviously different conditions are going to be played on Friday than it was the case in finals of last year, so I'm hopefully going to be able to also perform at the high level than I have, especially in the first two sets in the last year's final.

"The quality and the level of tennis that I've been playing in the last three, four weeks on clay -- Rome, Belgrade and here -- is giving me good sensations and feelings ahead of that match.

"I'm confident. I believe I can win, otherwise I wouldn't be here. Let's have a great battle."

Djokovic had to battle Wednesday to defeat the ninth-seeded Italian, letting loose a primal scream when he finally put the match away in the fourth set. 

The Serbian said the crowd was Davis Cup-like before fans were ushered out due to the local curfew. 

"The crowd lifted him up. He was playing some really powerful tennis," Djokovic said. 

"Especially in the third and fourth he served tremendously strong and precise. It was just very difficult to read his serve and play someone like him.

"He's very talented. He can play well from the back of the court. He's got a lethal forehand, dropshots. ... When he's on, it's tough to play him."

Novak Djokovic will face Rafael Nadal in the semi-final of the French Open after defeating Matteo Berrettini in four sets.

The 18-time grand slam champion, who has only one title to his name at Roland Garros, was somewhere close to his imperious best on Court Philippe Chatrier as world number nine Berrettini's run was halted in a 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 loss.

This is as far as the Italian has got in Paris but Djokovic was determined to let him go no further, the world number one having suffered a scare in the last round as he fell two sets behind to Lorenzo Musetti before Berrettini's compatriot retired hurt.

Djokovic's peerless returning ability was on full display, and will have to be again against the 'King of Clay' Nadal, as he negotiated a tricky test with relatively little fuss.

The Serbian showed laser-like precision off both wings, affording Berrettini precious few opportunities to apply any pressure at all across the first two sets. 

Seeking to become only the second Italian player to defeat the French Open's number one seed after Adriano Panatta did so against Bjorn Borg in 1976, Berrettini could not find the answers to Djokovic's constant probing.

Like Djokovic, Berrettini was handed a walkover in the previous round after Roger Federer withdrew, although he did not have to even take to the court.

The third set offered some small hint that it may have given Berrettini an advantage in terms of freshness as he came through a hard-fought tie-break, fists pumping as he forced the contest late into the Parisian night, meaning the fans in attendance would not be able to see the match to its conclusion.

But a Djokovic break late into an hour-long fourth handed him the victory, prompting passionate, wide-eyed celebrations from the Serbian in the direction of his coaching team.

Data Slam: Djokovic can't be faulted

Opponents looking for any kind of weakness in Djokovic's game might feel some glimmer of hope when they get a look at his second serve. And then that second serve comes and the 34-year-old's variety leaves them befuddled. Djokovic won 65 per cent of the points on his second serve, proving that even when it appeared to door may have been ajar for Berrettini, it was quickly slammed shut.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 44/19
Berrettini – 55/51

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 10/1
Berrettini – 11/3

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 4/9
Berrettini – 0/3

Novak Djokovic came from two sets down against Lorenzo Musetti on Monday to reach the quarter-finals of the French Open for a record 12th consecutive year after his opponent retired in the fifth set.

The world number one went into the contest with the 19-year-old having not dropped a set at these championships but found himself in big trouble after a gruelling first couple of hours.

It felt like a different match entirely after that, as Djokovic won 16 of the final 17 games before Musetti retired with the scores at 6-7 (7-9) 6-7 (2-7) 6-1 6-0 4-0 in the 2016 champion's favour.

The Serbian seemed unsettled by Musetti's unpredictable early approach, the teenager mixing up forehand speeds and backhand passes to good effect after an early exchange of breaks.

It looked like Djokovic had control of the opening tie-break only for Musetti to win five out of six points to lead 6-5. Two rasping forehands soon secured the set after a Djokovic error.

Belief in a shock upset really did begin to grow when Musetti took a 3-1 lead in the second set, at which point Djokovic literally took his hat off to his opponent. Whether it was psychological or his cap really was a bother, a bare-headed Djokovic promptly broke back to love.

Djokovic's error count dropped from 20 in the first set to 15 in the second, but the momentum still seemed to be with the Italian, who continued to paint the lines from both sides of the court even when it seemed impossible: early in the second tie-break, a reflex lob from the net somehow bounced on the baseline as his opponent watched in disbelief.

Deserved as his lead was, there was still a feeling that, should Musetti's standards slip even a touch, the door to the comeback would be open. Djokovic seemed to sense as much, returning from a bathroom break to power his way through the third set in just 28 minutes, less than half the time of each of the first two.

Suddenly, doubt crept into Musetti's play as Djokovic began to dictate. He won 16 points in a row to take a 4-0 lead in the fourth and broke again with the sort of drop-shot winner that Musetti had anticipated with ease in the opening two hours.

Djokovic was troubled by his lower back before the fifth set and needed treatment to his hand after somehow winning the first point on the Musetti serve despite falling heavily in the dirt.

Yet it was Musetti whose body could simply no longer keep up, his retirement ensuring Djokovic will now face Matteo Berrettini in the last eight.
 

Data Slam: Djokovic kept his cool as Musetti froze

Djokovic is rarely shy about showing his emotions on court, so it was interesting to see not a single outburst even after he fell 2-0 down.

Each player had won 85 points in those first two sets and Djokovic seemed to know this was no one-sided affair. When he moved up a gear and Musetti started to falter in mind and body, it was a totally different contest, Musetti winning just 18 points in the final 17 games.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 53/42
Musetti – 30/49

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 11/2
Musetti – 1/2

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 9/9
Musetti – 2/4

Rafael Nadal set another French Open record and hit one more grand slam milestone with victory on Saturday, while world number one Novak Djokovic also progressed at Roland Garros.

Nadal, a 13-time French Open champion, reached the last 16 of the tournament for a record 16th time by beating Cameron Norrie 6-3 6-3 6-3.

It marks the 50th time Nadal has made it through to the fourth round of a grand slam in his outstanding career. Djokovic is second on the all-time list with 54 appearances in the last 16 of a major – behind only Roger Federer - after he saw off Ricardas Berankis 6-1 6-4 6-1 in just 92 minutes.

While Nadal is set for a repeat of last year's quarter-final against Jannik Sinner, top seed Djokovic will be taking on another promising youngster in the form of Lorenzo Musetti.

DJOKOVIC THRILLED WITH HAMILTON COMPARISON

Djokovic is yet to drop a set at Roland Garros in 2021, with last year's beaten finalist – who is well on course to meet up with his old foe Nadal in the last four this time around – looking every bit worthy of his status as top seed.

His dominant display against Berankis drew comparisons, from one commentator at least, to Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton.

"It's like the dominance of Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes team. Berankis is a great driver, he maximises everything under the hood. But Novak Djokovic is driving a completely different race car," said former French Open champion Jim Courier.

"Berankis can't do the same things. On the same track, he can't race the same. Novak can drive how he wants."

It was a comparison which delighted Djokovic.

"Well, I'm honoured to be compared to Lewis. I respect Lewis and everything he does in his career, but also, off the track with his activism," said the 34-year-old, who is hunting a 19th major win. "Something that truly inspires me and a lot of athletes.

"I don't want to talk about my driving next to Lewis' name. Honestly, it's embarrassing to speak about my driving, and in the same sentence with Hamilton! But the analogy and the comparison of my game with an F1 car, it's definitely something that pleases me."

NADAL ENJOYING ROLAND GARROS BACKING

Given his sensational achievements in Paris down the years, it is no surprise that Nadal feels right at home whenever he returns to Roland Garros.

There were, of course, no fans allowed into the stands last year, but a limited number of spectators, including his family, are on hand to cheer him on once more this time.

"It is true that for the last year and a half it has been difficult for every player, although I didn't play so much," Nadal said.

"Those who have been travelling week after week without the chance to have family and a full team with them is very tough. They have been challenging conditions.

"For me it is very important to have the team and family behind me, because of them I am what I am today. I'm happy to have crowds, that is so important for us."

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

Though the era of dominance enjoyed by Federer, Nadal and Djokovic is only just starting to show signs of slowing down – albeit they still monopolise the grand slams – round four is going to throw up two fascinating contests.

Sinner came up against Nadal in the 2020 quarter-finals, and the Italian will be looking to cause an almighty upset this time around after overcoming Mikael Ymer.

Joining Sinner in the last 16 is his compatriot and fellow teenager Musetti, who has the small task of taking on the world's best player following a hard-fought victory over Marco Cecchinato.

It is the first time two teenagers have reached the fourth round at Roland Garros since Djokovic and Gael Monfils did so in 2006.

Novak Djokovic breezed into the fourth round of the French Open with an emphatic straight-sets defeat of Ricardas Berankis.

The top seed was a cut above the Lithuanian on Court Philippe-Chatrier, cruising to a 6-1 6-4 6-1 victory on Saturday.

Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti stands in the way of Djokovic and a place in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros after a masterful display from the world number one.

Djokovic served superbly, winning 88 per cent of points on his first serve and not facing a single break point, while also producing another exhibition of returning as he wrapped up a clinical victory in only an hour and 32 minutes.

The 18-time grand slam champion put Berankis under pressure immediately, breaking in the second game and taking a 4-0 lead with an exquisite backhand winner down the line.

Berankis was able to get on the board with a smash to reduce the deficit to 5-1, but Djokovic served out a one-sided opening set in only 26 minutes.

Djokovic did not have things all his own way in the second, but claimed the only break to go 3-2 up and was two sets up when his opponent returned a powerful first serve beyond the baseline.

Berankis was being given the run-around as the legendary Serb treated the crowd to sublime winners and demonstrated his incredible athleticism, letting out a huge roar after going 3-0 up with a blistering forehand.

There was no let-up from 2016 champion in Paris, who sealed a crushing victory with his third break in the third set.

 

Data Slam: Djokovic makes more major history

Djokovic has only won the French Open title once, but he has made history at Roland Garros. This victory moved him into the fourth round for a 12th consecutive year, which is an Open-era record.

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic – 30/18
Berankis – 20/36

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic – 5/3
Berankis – 1/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic – 6/9
Berankis – 0/0

Roger Federer took "a lot of confidence" from his four-set win over Marin Cilic as he produced his best display of the year at the French Open.

The 39-year-old beat the 2014 US Open champion 6-2 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Thursday, building on his first-round defeat of Denis Istomin with an impressive performance.

Federer looked in command in the first set but lost rhythm in the second amid sharpened play from Cilic and a strange confrontation with the umpire after a time violation warning while receiving serve.

The match was on a knife-edge heading into the third-set tie-break, but Federer was clinical when it mattered, serving out the set with an ace before assuming control again in the fourth.

"[It was a] very good match for me, I thought," said Federer, who will face Dominik Koepfer in round three. "A bit of up-and-downs in the second and third sets.

"The good thing, I feel like I come out of a match like this and I know why it was up and down, and then that I was able to attain a solid level once he did break back in the third set and things were looking dangerous for me.

"That I was able to step up a gear, stay with him, and then pull away from him, I think that gives me a lot of confidence."

DJOKOVIC AND NADAL IN CRUISE CONTROL

World number one Novak Djokovic is another who is finding his feet on the Paris dirt, the 2016 champion beating clay specialist Pablo Cuevas 6-3 6-2 6-4.

Djokovic, who will face Ricardas Berankis next after his win over James Duckworth, struck 31 winners as he moved to 22-3 for the year with his 350th grand slam match win.

"I'm playing well, feeling great. I'm ready to go deep in this tournament," he said. "Hopefully, that's going to be the case."

Defending champion Rafael Nadal was in imperious form in the late match, dispatching Richard Gasquet 6-0 7-5 6-2.

Nadal, who turned 35 on Thursday, won the opening seven games in under half an hour in a largely one-sided contest as he improved to 17-0 against the Frenchman, the most one-sided head-to-head of his career.

The Spaniard, who has not even dropped a set to Gasquet since 2008, said of winning once again in three: "I honestly don't complain at all! The main thing for me is to feel myself play well.

"In theory, it's better to save some energy, but at the same time, sometimes when you are pushed at the beginning of a tournament, you went through some tough moments, that helps a lot for the next rounds.

"It happened for me in Rome like this. I had some tough challenges at the beginning of the tournament, and then you get to the quarters, semis and final and you know you're going to suffer and you're more ready for the situation."

MONFLIS OUT, KWON EYEING SLICE OF HISTORY

Cameron Norrie continued the British interest in the French capital, recovering from a set down to defeat Lloyd Harris and reach round three for the first time, and will face Nadal next.

In a mixed day for the seeded players, Diego Schwartzman and Matteo Berrettini advanced in straight sets while Jannik Sinner beat compatriot Gianluca Mager 6-1 7-5 3-6 6-3.

However, Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev was beaten in four sets by veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, while 21st seed Alex De Minaur lost in four sets to Marco Cecchinato.

There was also disappointment for home favourite Gael Monfils. The 14th seed was beaten 6-0 2-6 6-4 6-3 by Mikael Ymer, the world number 105.

However, Thursday saw a moment to remember for Kwon Soon-woo, who reached round three of a major for the first time with a straight-sets victory over Andreas Seppi. He is bidding to become the first South Korean player to get to round four at Roland Garros.

There were impressive wins as well for teenagers Lorenzo Musetti and Carlos Alcaraz Garfica, who beat Nikoloz Basilashvili in straight sets to secure a meeting with Jan-Lennard Struff.

Novak Djokovic booked a place in the last 32 of the French Open with a straight-sets victory over Uruguayan veteran Pablo Cuevas.

The top seed, seeking just a second triumph at Roland Garros, followed up his emphatic win against Tennys Sandgren in round one with a slightly tougher 6-3 6-2 6-4 triumph against Cuevas.

World number one Djokovic had 31 winners to 22 unforced errors and will now face James Duckworth – who beat Ricardas Berankis earlier on Thursday – in the next round.

Djokovic initially took some time to get going and lost his serve in just the third game, before instantly hitting back in the fourth.

The 18-time grand slam winner did not look back from that point, serving up some impressive tennis on the clay and breaking Cuevas again in the eighth game to take a one-set lead.

Cuevas has reached the third round in Paris on four occasions, but hopes of doing so again this year were effectively put to bed in a blistering second set from Djokovic, who was successful with all 11 of his first serves to close in on victory.

Playing on Court Suzanne-Lenglen did not faze Djokovic – with Roger Federer taking prime position on Court Philippe-Chatrier – as he held throughout a gruelling third set and completed the job with a 10th ace of an entertaining contest.

Data Slam: Another milestone reached for Djokovic

Thursday's match was Djokovic's 350th at a grand slam and he looked very impressive pretty much from the moment he recovered from his early wobble. Cuevas also played well, but his opponent saved eight of the nine break points he faced to set up a meeting with Berankis.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic – 23/22
Cuevas – 31/26

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic – 10/3
Cuevas – 5/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic – 5/8
Cuevas – 1/9

Men's top seed Novak Djokovic says he empathizes with Naomi Osaka having been on the wrong side of the media in the past following her withdrawal from the 2021 French Open.

Four-time grand slam winner Osaka pulled out of Roland Garros on Monday, a day after tournament organisers said her continued refusal to attend compulsory news conferences could result in her being expelled from the Open.

Osaka had come out publicly prior to the French Open and announced she would not attend the news conferences after matches at Roland Garros, citing mental health reasons.

After winning in the first round, Osaka opted out and explained her decision in a social media statement where she said has had bouts of depression since winning the US Open in 2018 and never intended for her stance to become a distraction.

Djokovic, who came under fire last year for his role in the Adria Tour and his US Open default, was asked about Osaka's situation at his post-match news conferences after his straight sets win over Tennys Sandgren on Tuesday.

"Naomi is very young… I can understand her very well. I can empathise because I was on the wrong edge of the sword in my career many times with media," Djokovic said.

"I know how it feels. I support her. I think she was very brave to do that.

"I'm really sorry that she's going through painful times and suffering mentally. I wish her all the best.

"She's a very important player, brand and person for our sport. We need to have her back.

"This was a very bold decision from her side but she knows how she feels best. If she needs to take time and reflect and recharge, that's what she needed to do. I respect it fully. I hope she'll come back stronger."

Djokovic, who was 18 major titles to his name, added that he understood the stance of the French Open and other Grand Slams who have insisted on news conferences being mandatory after every match.

"The grand slams are protecting themselves and their own business," he said. "Of course, they're going to follow the rules and make sure you are complying otherwise you'll be paying fines and getting sanctioning.

"It's not surprising to me that that was their reaction. We're used to this environment and the principles of us doing interviews after every match and getting to answer questions that are majorly quite similar.

"But it's part of our sport and what we do. The media is important without a doubt. It's allowing us to have the platform to communicate with our fans but in a more traditional way.

"It used to be the only way how we could reach out to our fans. In the last five to 10 years it's not the case anymore. We have our own platforms and social media accounts."

Djokovic won 6-2 6-4 6-2 over Sandgren, compiling 33 winners to extend his outstanding French Open first round record to 17-0.

"I thought I played really well, moved very well," he said. "From the later stages of the Rome tournament until now, I'm finding my groove on the court, striking the ball well."

Novak Djokovic eased into the second round of the French Open thanks to a straight-sets win over Tennys Sandgren in the final match at Roland Garros on Tuesday.

The top seed – beaten by Rafael Nadal, who is in the same half of the draw, in the Paris final last year – had won his previous 16 first-round contests at the French Open, and there never appeared to be any danger of him failing to extend that record on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Indeed, this meeting lasted under two hours, with the world number one cruising through 6-2 6-4 6-2 without conceding serve and while hitting 33 winners in the process.

It also brought up his fourth career win over Sandgren, maintaining a 100 per cent record over the world number 66. Pablo Cuevas awaits in round two.

Sandgren was a break down in a hurry as Djokovic breezed through the first set in just 31 minutes.

The 34-year-old – a five-time Roland Garros finalist who claimed his solitary title at the event in 2016 – grew frustrated in the second set as he made nine unforced errors and offered up six break points, yet he saved them all.

It evidently demoralised Sandgren, who had put everything into trying to draw level, and the American swiftly found himself 4-1 and two breaks down in the final set, with Djokovic moving through the gears.

A sloppy shot into the net cost Djokovic his first match-point opportunity at 5-2 up, yet he made no mistake as he served out for the win – Sandgren's overhit cross-court forehand rounding off a one-sided contest.

Data Slam: Super Djokovic serves up a treat

Eighteen-time grand slam champion Djokovic may not have needed to live up to his own lofty standards, but his service game was typically excellent in the evening session. He landed 49 of 73 first serves, helping him to win 86 per cent of his first-serve points (42/49). 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 33/21
Sandgren – 25/27

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 4/2
Sandgren – 5/1

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 5/11
Sandgren – 0/6

Novak Djokovic will head to the French Open on the back of claiming the singles title at the Belgrade Open after battling past Alex Molcan in the final.

The world number one did not have it all his own way against the world number 255, with the first set featuring just three service holds.

But Djokovic claimed four breaks to Molcan's three to take the opener and did not let his advantage slip in front of his home crowd.

He negotiated a similarly tricky second set to prevail 6-4 6-3, with attention now turning to the second grand slam of the year after Djokovic won the Australian Open back in January.

After a resilient performance in the first set as he twice came back from a break down, Djokovic was able to enjoy a slightly less frenetic path to victory in the second.

He broke down a more obdurate Molcan for a 4-2 lead, only for the Slovak to hit straight back.

But Djokovic was not to be denied and immediately claimed another break, which he consolidated to delight his adoring public.

Victory in what was Djokovic's first final on home soil since 2011 means he now has 83 ATP singles titles to his name, with three of them coming at this event.

It also caps a positive period of preparation for a tilt at a second French Open title, with Djokovic having reached the final in Rome this month only to lose to Roland Garros favourite Rafael Nadal.

Nadal and Djokovic could meet in the semi-finals this year in Paris, where the Serbian was thrashed by the King of Clay in three sets in the 2020 final.

Djokovic will start his campaign to add to his 2016 French Open success when he faces Tennys Sandgren in the first round.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.