Match Report

Djokovic Brushes Past Kovacevic In Roland Garros Opener

Two-time champion to take on Fucsovics next in Paris
May 29, 2023
Novak Djokovic in action against Aleksandar Kovacevic on Monday at Roland Garros.
Novak Djokovic in action against Aleksandar Kovacevic on Monday at Roland Garros. By ATP Staff

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.”

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The World No. 114 Kovacevic, who idolised Djokovic as a child and posed for a picture with the Serbian as a seven-year-old at the 2005 US Open, showed flashes of his best level throughout the two-hour, 26-minute encounter. Yet he was unable to match the consistency of Djokovic from the baseline and had no answer to the third seed’s razor-sharp returning.

“He played really well, and he was handling himself very good there mentally, hanging in there,” said Djokovic. “I served for the match, he broke me. I mean, credit to him for fighting spirit.”

Despite his uncharacteristic lapse from Djokovic in the third set, the World No. 3 otherwise maintained a high level throughout his victory. He struck his groundstrokes cleanly off both wings and won 82 per cent (37/45) of points behind his first serve in 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.

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