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Novak Djokovic begins his bid for a 25th Grand Slam title with a first-round French Open win – News-Herald



Novak Djokovic begins his bid for a 25th Grand Slam title with a first-round French Open win – News-Herald


PARIS — Ignore the straight-set rating: Novak Djokovic was not fairly at his impervious greatest within the first spherical of the French Open on Might 28, and his 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert was not sufficient to change the defending champion’s “low expectations” at this match.

“I don’t wish to get too excited,” Djokovic mentioned. “I believed it was efficiency for me. Stable. After all, I might have executed higher, I believe, on return video games, but in addition credit score to him for serving very properly, for altering issues up.”

It’s been a rougher-than-usual season thus far for Djokovic, and whereas there have been some indicators of breaking out of his 2024 funk throughout the course of the competition at Courtroom Philippe Chatrier, he nonetheless has room for enchancment as he makes an attempt to turn out to be the primary participant in tennis historical past to say 25 Grand Slam singles trophies. There’s little question he cares about such issues.

“Grand Slams are those which might be principally getting me up from the mattress each day. Figuring out that I’ve to hit the apply courts, I all the time take into consideration what I can do in Grand Slams,” he mentioned. “So right here I’m. Hopefully I can have one other deep run.”

That’s what Herbert anticipated to see.

“I knew, from the start,” Herbert mentioned, “that I’m going to have in entrance of me the ‘Novak of the Grand Slams.’ … It’s simply the depth of focus.”

Djokovic is a three-time title winner at Roland Garros who must return to the ultimate to retain his No. 1 rating. However he arrived in Paris with out having executed that at any match this yr. He’s 0-3 in semifinals — together with a loss final week on the lower-tier Geneva Open on pink clay — and this victory throughout 2 1/2 hours solely served to make his total document 15-6.

So when he spoke at a information convention on Might 26, Djokovic described his mindset heading into the French Open this manner: “Low expectations and excessive hopes.” Then he identified, “Something however a title, for me, just isn’t passable,” which is comprehensible given his outstanding resume.

“Within the moments when it mattered, I believe I delivered. Performed an incredible tiebreak. Stayed targeted,” Djokovic mentioned about his efficiency. “I’m glad that I began the best way I began, the best way I felt on the courtroom. Evaluating to the earlier weeks of tournaments I performed, I felt good. Higher. So I’m shifting in a constructive path. Yeah, it’s only the start.”

He appeared a bit edgy at moments towards Herbert, a 33-year-old Frenchman who owns a profession Grand Slam in doubles however by no means has been previous the third spherical at any main in singles and is at the moment ranked 142nd.

The house crowd tried to push Herbert, repeatedly calling out his identify, even imploring him in English at one level by chanting, “Let’s go, Pierre-Hugues! Let’s go!” They jeered Djokovic late within the third set when he went to the sideline to towel off after he slipped, stumbled and tumbled onto the clay chasing a ball.

A day after sitting within the Chatrier stands to look at rival Rafael Nadal’s first-round loss towards Alexander Zverev, Djokovic was competing within the chill of a 60-degree night (15 Celsius), and he didn’t all the time look blissful. He rolled his head again after one miss whereas making 4 groundstroke errors to get damaged early within the second set. He repeatedly gestured to ballkids to offer him tennis balls so he might put together to serve.

Though Herbert’s recreation didn’t demand a most expenditure of power from Djokovic, there definitely was sufficient to maintain issues fascinating. And by the tip, the winner totals have been 37 for Herbert, 29 for Djokovic.

There have been some strokes of brilliance from Djokovic, to make certain, and he lined the courtroom properly when sprinting after the drop pictures Herbert saved attempting. The spotlight for Djokovic was in all probability the closed-stance sliding backhand winner that earned him a match level — which was transformed when Herbert double-faulted to finish it.

Nonetheless, the statistic that actually mattered was the one which reveals Djokovic is now 69-0 in opening matches at Slam occasions since beginning his profession with a 3-2 mark in first-rounders.

Djokovic’s second-round opponent shall be 63rd-ranked Roberto Carballés Baena of Spain.

The primary spherical closed on a day throughout which rain delayed play for a number of hours early within the day on all however the two principal courts, that are outfitted with retractable roofs.

Different winners Might 28 included the person Djokovic beat in final yr’s French Open remaining, Casper Ruud, and previous main champions Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina.

Ruud, who additionally was the runner-up to Nadal in Paris in 2022 and leads the ATP with 36 wins in 2024, beat Felipe Meligeni Alves 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

Two-time Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka overpowered Erika Andreeva 6-1, 6-2, and 2022 Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina beat Greet Minnen 6-2, 6-3.

Sabalenka is attempting to turn out to be the primary girl since Serena Williams in 2015 to win the Australian Open and Roland Garros in the identical season and get midway to a calendar-year Grand Slam.

“I’m simply attempting to separate myself from all these details,” mentioned Sabalenka, who’s No. 2 within the rankings behind Iga Swiatek. “I imply, I do know that if I’ll be capable of give attention to myself and I’ll be capable of combat for each level and attempt to discover a resolution in every recreation, I can win these massive tournaments. However I simply attempt to take it step-by-step.”

Related Press Author Tom Nouvian contributed to this report.

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