Djokovic Passes Sousa Challenge In Paris
Novak Djokovic delivered another convincing performance on Wednesday to continue the defence of his 2016 Roland Garros title, outplaying Portugal's Joao Sousa 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 to move into the third round in Paris.
Djokovic is trying to become the first man in the Open Era – and the third man in history – to capture each of the four Grand Slams twice. Roy Emerson and Rod Laver also achieved the feat. Last year, Djokovic won his first Roland Garros title to complete his career Grand Slam.
“Generally I felt better than the first round, so that's exactly what I wanted,” Djokovic said.
The Serbian was tested by the 28-year-old Sousa, who was unintimidated by the occasion and striving for personal and Portuguese history. Sousa, 59th in the Emirates ATP Rankings, had never reached the third round of a Grand Slam, and no Portuguese man had ever advanced to the third round at Roland Garros.
After dropping the first set in 30 minutes, Sousa broke the Serbian to lead 3-1 in the second set after the Djokovic sprayed a forehand wide. The 2016 champion broke right back, though, and, after 73 minutes of play, had a two-set cushion.
Serving at 2-3 in the third set, Djokovic was challenged again, having to fight off a break point before ending the 13-point game with a forehand winner. He seized momentum in the next game, wielding his forehand one more time to break Sousa for the fifth time. Djokovic improved to 4-0 against Sousa in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and has won all 11 sets they've played.
The win is Djokovic's second with new coach Andre Agassi on hand. The Serbian said he feels rejuvenated by having the former World No. 1 on his team. “I think I have reached the stage of my life where I just need to always find new ways of motivating myself, inspiring myself, and having Agassi on board and doing some changes is definitely bringing me that,” Djokovic said. “I look forward to whatever life brings next. I still feel young in my mind, in my body as well. I'm going to keep going and see where it takes me.”
The Serbian will next meet Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who saved nine of 11 break points against Italy's Stefano Napolitano to advance 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 and reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time. Schwartzman had fallen in the second round of a Grand Slam six times, including twice at Roland Garros (2014, 2015).
The 24 year old from Buenos Aires fell to Djokovic in straight sets during their prior FedEx ATP Head2Head match-up at the 2014 US Open. But they've never played on clay, Schwartzman's preferred surface. The right-hander won his maiden ATP World Tour title last year on clay at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open (d. Dimitrov).
“I need to improve and I need to be focused tomorrow on my recovery with my legs, with my team, trying to fix my body to be perfect against Novak,” Schwartzman said. “I need to play more than my 100 per cent tennis to beat him, and I will try to do. I have confidence. It's my second time to play in the Philippe Chatrier... I will try to enjoy and play good tennis.”
Go inside the tournament at RolandGarros.com.