Novak Djokovic believes that he's not the only player who can cause problems for World No. 1 Rafael Nadal here at Roland Garros.
Djokovic's third round clash against Marin Cilic on Friday wasn't an easy one, and the Serb needed to show grit and resilience to get past his powerful opponent with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-4 scoreline. The Croatian has been a force to be reckoned with since he started working with Goran Ivanisevic, and Djokovic needed almost two hours to see off the match after winning the first two sets.
Djokovic was only able to take seven on his 22 break points as Cilic hung on. However, the resistance could only last for so long, and Djokovic eventually managed to grind down the big server with reliable baseline play. The Serb made 37 unforced errors throughout the course of the match, whereas Cilic made a whopping 64.
When Djokovic met the press he was asked about the match, but also about Dominic Thiem's recent comments. The young Austrian was beaten by Nadal on Thursday and claimed that Djokovic alone has the talent and fitness to keep up with Nadal when the Spaniard is able to play his game. Novak said he was flattered by the remark, but stressed that he's not the only man with the ability to get the better of the 'King of Clay'.
"Obviously it's nice to hear that. But I don't think I'm the only one," he said. "There are players who are definitely able to compete with Rafa on this surface, especially this year. He has lost to [Nicolas] Almagro, to [David] Ferrer, two big tournaments."
"Definitely this is the tournament that he likes the most. I'm talking about Rafa. He lost once in his life on this tournament, on this court. So for sure, he's the most dominant player around in Roland Garros in history. We all know that, and we all know how good he is. But in the end of the day, you don't go out with a white flag on the court. You try to win whoever is across the net."
Tsonga, who will play either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Jerzy Janowicz in round four, currently seems destined for a meeting with Nadal in the final. He'll arguably have the momentum should the clash go ahead, as he's won his last four matches against his biggest rival. The latest of these wins, which will perhaps turn out to be a telling one, was his three set triumph at the Rome Masters. The 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 loss may play on Nadal's mind if he meets Djokovic next week on Court Philippe Chatrier.