Djokovic Makes Roland Garros History With Struff Win
It’s well-known that Novak Djokovic is trying to become just the second player to hold all four Grand Slam trophies at the same time twice this Roland Garros. The World No. 1 made progress toward that goal Monday, but that’s not the only history he made with his straight-sets victory.
Djokovic defeated powerful German Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals on the Parisian terre battue, becoming the first man to reach the last eight at Roland Garros in 10 consecutive appearances.
"I don't mind cruising along, to be honest," Djokovic said with a smile. "I have plenty of experience, I think, dealing with situations where you're facing break points or where it's tense. I have played plenty of tight matches in my career that I can rely on that experience. I think it's good to be tested from that perspective, but at the same time, it's also good to cruise along and conserve the energy for what's coming up."
The 32-year-old Serbian is into his 44th Grand Slam quarter-final, and his wealth of experience proved too much for the dangerous Struff, who was playing in the fourth round of a major for the first time. Djokovic broke Struff’s serve five times to advance after one hour and 33 minutes.
"I am satisfied so far with my game. I mean, I reached the quarter-finals and played as close to my best tennis on clay as I think I can be at the moment," Djokovic said. "I'm really pleased with every aspect of my game. So everything is coming together beautifully. I'm motivated to fight for the trophy, yes, that's why I'm here. But it's still a long way to go."
The key was that Djokovic, who has won all 12 of his sets through four rounds, never let up. The top seed neutralised all of Struff’s offence, playing like a wall. The pair played 139 points in the match, and Djokovic made only 12 unforced errors. It was not that Struff played poorly by any means — the German struck 20 winners to only 19 unforced errors — but Djokovic was simply too good.
As Struff was forced to go for increasingly more difficult shots from tough positions on the court, he left space open for Djokovic, who clubbed 31 winners, the most the 2016 champion has hit so far this tournament.
"There were a couple of really close games at the beginning, it was 3-3, we were winning our service games quite comfortably. But he was being very aggressive, not making a lot of unforced errors, and then the match turned around in one game," Djokovic said. "After that, I started reading his serve better, got a break in the first game of second set, and that obviously gave me wings."
The World No. 1 faced his only break point in the match as he attempted to serve for a place in the quarter-finals, but he quickly snuffed out Struff's chance and successfully used a backhand drop shot on match point to clinch his victory, taking a 2-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead against the 29-year-old World No. 45.
Djokovic will face reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev, who beat Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters titlist Fabio Fognini, in the last eight. Djokovic is 8-4 in Roland Garros quarter-finals, including losses in each of the past two years. In 2017, the Serbian lost in straight sets to Dominic Thiem, and last season, he fell to Italian Marco Cecchinato in four.
Struff is projected to crack the Top 40 of the ATP Rankings for the next time next Monday thanks to his career-best Slam effort. The German beat three players ranked ahead of him — No. 20 seed Denis Shapovalov, Delray Beach champion Radu Albot and No. 13 seed Borna Coric — to reach the fourth round.
Did You Know?
The only other player to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously is Rod Laver, who won all four majors in 1962 and 1969. Djokovic captured the four Slams from 2015 Wimbledon through 2016 Roland Garros.