Late in the evening in the City of Lights, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic christened the first ever men’s night session on Court Philippe-Chatrier with a victory over Tennys Sandgren on Tuesday to reach the second round at Roland Garros.
Djokovic improved to 4-0 in his ATP Head2Head against Sandgren after winning 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in their first clay-court meeting. Sandgren took a set off Djokovic in their 2018 US Open second-round clash, but the American was unable to repeat the feat in Paris as Djokovic saved all six break points he faced en route to victory.
“It was strange, honestly, but I’m also honoured to be the first men’s night session match [in the] history of this tournament, of this court,” Djokovic said, after playing without fans on Chatrier due to the 9 p.m. curfew in Paris. “I had great support [at the ATP 250 event] in Belgrade last week, and I was kind of filled with a good vibe, good energy from those matches that I played in front of a crowd. So I didn’t mind playing in front of an empty stadium tonight.”
The 2016 champion arrived in Paris in red-hot form after lifting his 83rd tour-level trophy at the Belgrade Open on Saturday, backing up his run to the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final (l. Nadal). Djokovic owns a 21-3 record on the season, which includes a record-extending ninth Australian Open title in February, his 18th Grand Slam crown.
“Overall from [the] later stages of the Rome tournament until now, I’m just finding my groove on the court and striking the ball well,” Djokovic said. “Very pleased with the way I am feeling and playing on the court.”
😵💫@TennysSandgren and @DjokerNole showing off the slide skills 👣#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/3ZGJ14mjTY
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 1, 2021
Djokovic wasted no time in taking the lead against Sandgren on Chatrier, which was outfitted with floodlights for the first time in 2020. The top seed’s backhand was firing as he surged ahead to an early break at 1-0, and didn’t face a break point himself as he closed out the opening set with another at 5-2.
He was in for a battle in the second set as Sandgren, who previously reached the Australian Open quarter-finals in 2018 and 2020, tried to fight his way back after going down another early break at 1-0. Djokovic faced three break points as the American rushed the net, catching his opponent out with a booming passing shot to take a 0/40 lead – but Djokovic held firm to stay in control.
Djokovic kept his cool against an increasingly frustrated Sandgren, reeling off five games in a row to open up a 5-1 lead in the third set. Sandgren saved match point to extend his stay in the contest, but couldn’t hold back the World No. 1 and his backhand down-the-line as Djokovic sealed the victory after an hour and 58 minutes.
“I thought I played really well. Moved really well,” Djokovic said. “I’m going to try to keep that up. Obviously it’s a long shot. It’s a long tournament. But I’ll take it match by match. And physically I’m also fit. I’m [as] motivated as anybody.”
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Into the second round at Roland Garros for the 17th consecutive time, Djokovic will next face Pablo Cuevas. The Uruguayan player advanced after securing a 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 victory against Frenchman Lucas Pouille.
Did You Know?
2016 champion Djokovic is seeking his second Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy this fortnight in Paris. A victory would make him the first man in the Open Era to win every Grand Slam championship twice.