Djokovic Hits 31 Winners To Beat Cuevas At Roland Garros
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was made to work hard on Thursday as he beat clay-court specialist Pablo Cuevas 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to move into the third round and continue his quest for a first Roland Garros title since 2016.
"I'm playing well, feeling great. I'm ready to go deep in this tournament," Djokovic said. "Hopefully that's going to be the case. But I'll take it match by match, and so far the two matches that I have played have been played in a high quality."
In a first ATP Head2Head meeting between the pair, Djokovic hit 31 winners to claim victory in two hours and nine minutes. The World No. 1 has yet to drop a set in Paris and will play Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis, who beat James Duckworth of Australia 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-0. Djokovic leads World No. 93 Berankis 3-0 (8-0 in sets), having met last year at the Paris major.
Djokovic won the Belgrade Open on home soil last week (d. Molcan) and reached the final at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia (l. to Nadal) in May. The 34-year-old is now 22-3 for the season having won a record-extending ninth Australian Open title in February (d. Medvedev) to move him to 18 Grand Slam titles - just two shy of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer (both with 20).
Cuevas started well and struck first when Djokovic netted a forehand to move a break ahead, but the Serbian responded immediately to level at 2-2. Djokovic then raised his level, out-hitting the World No. 92 from the baseline to reel off four of the next five games in a high-quality opener that saw both players hit 10 winners.
As the second set wore on, Djokovic started to break the spirit of Cuevas. He won 100 per cent of points on his first-serve (11/11) and also converted both break points he had in the set, as errors started to leak into the 35-year-old’s game. Djokovic showcased a mixture of power and precision on his groundstrokes throughout and moved further ahead when Cuevas hit a forehand long on set point.
At the start of the third set, Djokovic demonstrated his defensive skills to great effect to gain an early break. Cuevas did produce a moment of magic in the following game, guiding a wonderful cross-court forehand past a despairing Djokovic who was rooted at the net. However, he was unable to convert either break point chance with Cuevas’ disappointment met with a Djokovic roar. The Uruguayan had two more opportunities at 2-1, but Djokovic fought well again to hold in a mammoth 13-minute game.
"I'm pleased with the performance today, particularly against a very good player, a specialist on clay, someone I have never faced before. [He] has got a lot of spin," Djokovic said. "[He hits] just a very difficult ball to handle in these kind of conditions when it's a bit warmer... These balls during the day are bouncing really high."