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No excuses for Novak Djokovic after French Open defeat: ‘Rafa played a perfect match’

Novak Djokovic credited ‘phenomenal’ Rafael Nadal after one-sided defeat in the French Open final.

The 2020 French Open men’s singles final, which many expected to be a lengthy, four- or five-set affair, turned out to be one of Rafael Nadal’s most dominant victories over one of his biggest rivals.

Nadal claimed a thirteenth French Open title with a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Novak Djokovic which was so one-sided that many wondered whether Djokovic was physically compromised in some way.

But Djokovic denied the possibility, pointing to what he called a ‘phenomenal’ performance by Nadal.

‘I was fine. Everything was okay. I was ready for this match. It’s just that I was overplayed. I mean, I was beaten by a guy who was just perfect today,’ he said.

In the first two sets, Nadal hit 21 winners and just six unforced errors while breaking Djokovic five times.

Djokovic did serve very poorly, landing just 42% of first serves in the first set and winning only three of 11 points played behind his first serve. But the greatest returner in tennis couldn’t break Nadal for two and a half sets and only created three break point opportunities in the first two sets.

Nadal with the trophy (Aurelien Morissard / IP3)

It was a command performance by Nadal, the greatest male player that the French Open has ever known. Many games went to deuce at least once, but it was always Nadal who came up with the sensational winner down the line, or the perfect riposte to the Djokovic drop shot (a tactic which had been working for the world no. 1 throughout the tournament, but which yielded few dividends today against the foot-speed and feathery-light touch of Nadal).

The match only become truly competitive towards the end, when Djokovic responded to being broken at 3-3 by immediately breaking back. The Serbian player, who had been noticeably calm and subdued through the match up until that point, suddenly let loose with a roar of pure emotion, gesturing the crowd to get on their feet and support him.

This more fired-up Djokovic kept the set on serve for a few games, saving break point to do so at 4-5. He had 0-15 on Nadal’s serve in the next game, but Nadal reeled off four straight points to level, then broke Djokovic to love in the next game when Djokovic’s second serve shaded long. Nadal served the match out to love, sealing victory with an ace.

A gracious Djokovic speaks at the trophy ceremony (Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

The last match the two had played in a Grand Slam final had seen Djokovic comprehensively outplay Nadal for a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory at the Australian Open in 2019, but this was a complete turning of the tables, as Djokovic acknowledged.

During the trophy ceremony, he joked that Nadal had ‘shown why [he] was King of Clay – I have experienced it on my own skin.’

Speaking to the media, he said:

‘Certainly I could have played better, especially in the first two sets. But he did surprise me with the way he was playing, the quality of tennis he was producing, the level. I mean, he’s phenomenal. He played a perfect match, especially in the first two sets.’

Nadal’s 100th match win at Roland Garros also saw him tie Roger Federer’s all-time Grand Slam title record of 20, the pair of them leaving Djokovic some distance behind with 17.

Federer was quick to congratulate Nadal on social media:

 

 

But immediately after the match, Nadal was keen to emphasize that for him this victory was not about the records.

‘To win here means everything to me,’ he told post-match interviewer Fabrice Santoro through a branded mask on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

‘Is not the moment – honestly, not for me I don’t think today about the twentieth or [about] equal[ling] Roger on this great number, for me today is just a Roland Garros victory, no?

‘Roland Garros means everything for me.’

Nadal also found time for a heartfelt message to the world at large about dealing with the current health crisis, and was keen to put his achievement in winning a thirteenth French Open title in context.

‘I played at my highest level when I needed to play at my highest level, so […] I am very proud. The personal satisfaction is big because under the circumstances that we played this Roland Garros.’

Nadal also floated the possibility of ending his season after the victory and not playing the Nitto ATP Finals in November, saying that he would make a decision over the next few days after consulting with his team.

Can Novak Djokovic deny Rafael Nadal a thirteenth French Open title?

We break down the men’s singles draw, analyse the contenders and predict the semifinalists and champion as Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem lead the draw at the 2020 US Open.

Rafael Nadal faces Novak Djokovic in the French Open final on Sunday 11 October – read our match analysis and predictions here.

French Open 2020: Preview

No man has ever ruled the French Open, also known as Roland Garros, like 12-time champion Nadal, who has only ever lost two matches there.

But the 2020 French Open will be different – it’s being played in chilly, damp autumn instead of the sunshine and heat of June, and at best only limited spectators will be allowed, with players enclosed in a bio-security bubble.

Can Nadal adapt to these new conditions, and his own lack of match practice, or will one of his challengers wrest the Coupe des Mousquetaires from his grasp?

US Open Semifinals

Novak Djokovic (1) vs Stefanos Tsitsipas (5), 5pm local/4pm BST

World no. 1 Novak Djokovic faces Stefanos Tsitsipas, playing his second Grand Slam semifinal, as Djokovic attempts to reach the final of the French Open for the fifth time.

Djokovic comes into the match with physical concerns, having struggled in his quarterfinal against Pablo Carreno Busta. Djokovic took to the court with his neck taped and clearly suffering from pain and stiffness in his left arm. He dropped the first set to Carreno Busta – the first set he has lost in the tournament – but won 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 and said afterwards that the pain faded as his body warmed up.

Read full match analysis and get head-to-head stats and more on Djokovic vs Tsitsipas.

Tsitsipas, in contrast, looked just the right combination of relaxed and intense as he faced Andrey Rublev in what was not just the Greek’s first Grand Slam quarterfinal since his initial breakthrough semifinal run at the Australian Open in 2019, but a rematch of the Hamburg Open final which Tsitsipas had served for and then ended up losing a few weeks before. But a polished performance by Tsitsipas saw him claim his first win over Rublev in four attempts, his all-court game leaving the Russian looking one-dimensional and his backhand standing up to the Rublev forehand better than it has before.

Tsitsipas has beaten Djokovic before, but not on clay, and most crucially not over the best-of-five sets. Djokovic has obvious physical concerns, but even if he loses the first set against Tsitsipas, he’ll always be favoured to play his way into the match. You can’t say the same for Tsitsipas.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs Diego Schwartzman (12), 2.50pm local/1.50pm BST

Nadal has never won the French Open when he came in without winning a title on clay, although that stat is a little misleading – all bets are off in this strangest season, after all (though not literally). He has still only lost two matches at Roland Garros, and it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that although he played abysmally in losing to Schwartzman in Rome, the 12-time champion has had exactly the draw he needs to play himself in.

Nadal dropped only 23 games in reaching the quarterfinals, beating Egor Gerasimov, Mackenzie McDonald, Stefano Travaglia and young qualifier Sebastian Korda all without turning a hair, pretty much; and he’s adapted his game to the slower, colder conditions, flattening out the cross-court backhand in particular. His sternest test of the tournament came against 19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner, who had eliminated David Goffin in the first round and Alexander Zverev in the fourth; Sinner served for the first set, had a break lead in the second, but still lost in straight sets, Nadal winning 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1.

Read full match analysis and get live streaming information for Nadal vs Schwartzman.

Meanwhile, Diego Schwartzman earlier that day played for over five hours to knock out Dominic Thiem, in a match which was both a very impressive win – Thiem was looking for his fifth straight semifinal or better at the French Open – and also something of a missed opportunity for Schwartzman, who arguably could and should have won in straight sets.

If he had, he would have been at less of a physical disadvantage coming into the semifinal against Nadal, although both players do have two days to recover.

Schwartzman beat Nadal in Rome in straight sets, his first victory over the Spaniard in ten attempts. But it’s difficult to see him repeating the feat. Nadal served abysmally in Rome, and didn’t play well off the ground, while Schwartzman was inspired and aggressive. If Nadal plays even 20% better, Schwartzman will be forced back off the court and unable to dictate and the match will follow familiar patterns – the Argentine could come out and absolutely redline for a set and maybe take it, but will be unable to keep up the pressure over the best of five.

French Open 2020: Prediction

Semifinals:

Djokovic d. Tsitsipas
Nadal d. Schwartzman

Final:

Nadal d. Djokovic

Will Novak Djokovic become the first man to beat Rafael Nadal in a French Open final?

Djokovic vs Nadal is live from Roland Garros on Sunday 11 October, 3pm local/2pm BST

History is always on the line when Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic face each other, but perhaps never more so than Sunday’s French Open final. If Nadal wins, he will increase his haul of Roland Garros titles to 13 and tie Roger Federer’s all-time Grand Slam record of 20 titles. If Djokovic wins, he will be the first man to beat Nadal at the French Open twice, the only man to beat him in a Roland Garros final and the first man in Open Era history to win each Grand Slam at least twice, as well as narrowing the gap on Nadal and Federer in the all-time Grand Slam race.

French Open 2020: Find out tournament information for Roland Garros 2020 and how to stream French Open matches live

Nadal has yet to drop a set at this year’s French Open, and his supremacy on the courts of Roland Garros knows no equal – but in recent years, Djokovic has continued to turn the tide of their rivalry in his favour, winning seven of their last ten matches and leading the head-to-head 29-26.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Djokovic vs Nadal live

French Open matches including Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Djokovic vs Nadal: Head-to-head

Novak Djokovic leads the head-to-head with Rafael Nadal 29-26. On clay, however, Nadal has the advantage, leading 17-7. It’s been four years since Djokovic has beaten Nadal on clay.

At Grand Slams, Nadal leads the head-to-head 9-6, but Djokovic has won the last three. In Grand Slam finals, it’s 4-4.

Nadal won the first six matches they played against each other at Roland Garros but Djokovic won their last encounter in straight sets in the 2015 quarterfinals.

Djokovic vs Nadal: Preview

These two have played each other 55 times, so in one sense there will be no surprises when the two meet in Sunday’s French Open final – and yet, the outcome remains uncertain.

Djokovic took the ascendancy in the rivalry in the past decade, and has won 10 of the 13 matches they have played over the past five years, including his straight-sets victory over Nadal in the French Open quarterfinals in 2015. But they have only played on clay three times in the past three years. Each time, Nadal has been the winner.

The past fortnight has demonstrated once again just why Nadal is on the brink of winning his 13th French Open title. Unfavourable conditions, new balls he doesn’t like, an extreme lack of recent competitive matches – none of it has stopped him from reaching the final without dropping a single set. Against Diego Schwartzman in the semifinals, he won a 64-minute first set and survived a late charge from the Argentine. Perhaps most ominously, he is showing no signs of physical frailty or wear-and-tear.

Novak Djokovic (Photo by laurent Zabulon/ABACAPRESS.COM)

Djokovic palpably struggled with a left neck/shoulder/arm issue against Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarterfinals, but there was no tape on his neck nor any sign of being hindered when he faced Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinals. The last thing he needed was a long match, though, and that’s what he got, finding himself taken to a fifth set despite holding match point in the third against a seemingly totally outplayed Tsitsipas. The Greek’s surge back to level the match had much more to do with him than it did with a drop in Djokovic’s level, but when Nadal was faced with a similar surge from Schwartzman, he contained it and got out of there in straight sets. Djokovic didn’t, or couldn’t, and it could be the difference in Sunday’s final – not just the fact that Nadal expended less energy, but that the Spanish player was able to find that extra gear when needed.

The trend of the rivalry in recent years has been in Djokovic’s direction, but they’ve met so infrequently in recent years – no more than twice a year for the past three years – and in such different conditions that it’s difficult to read too much into it. I thought coming into this tournament that Djokovic would win it. I’ve changed my mind.

Djokovic vs Nadal: Prediction

Can Stefanos Tsitsipas stop Novak Djokovic from reaching his fifth French Open final?

Djokovic vs Tsitsipas is live from Roland Garros on Friday 9 October, 5pm local/4pm BST

World no. 1 Novak Djokovic must contend with ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas – and his own physical issues – to reach the French Open final and fulfil his end of a probable date with destiny, also known as 12-time champion Rafael Nadal.

French Open 2020: Find out tournament information for Roland Garros 2020 and how to stream French Open matches live

Tsitsipas has beaten Djokovic twice, but the top seed will also be concerned with the neck and arm issues which troubled him during a quarterfinal victory over Pablo Carreno Busta which saw him drop his first set of the tournament.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Djokovic vs Tsitsipas live

French Open matches including Novak Djokovic vs Stefanos Tsitsipas are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Djokovic vs Tsitsipas: Head-to-head

Novak Djokovic leads the head-to-head with Stefanos Tsitsipas 3-2, and has won their last two encounters in straight sets (6-1, 6-2 at the Paris Masters last year; 6-3, 6-4 in the Dubai final in February 2020).

Tsitsipas beat Djokovic in their first meeting at the Canada Masters in July 2018 and the Shanghai Masters in autumn 2019.

Djokovic is 1-0 vs Tsitsipas on clay, beating him 6-3, 6-4 at the Madrid Masters in May 2019.

Djokovic vs Tsitsipas: Preview

Novak Djokovic hit his first speed bump of his quest for a second French Open title on Wednesday when he faced Pablo Carreno Busta, the only player to have technically beaten him in 2020 (although Djokovic has still not lost a completed match this year, or to Carreno Busta, ever).

Djokovic dropped the first set to Carreno Busta 4-6 after having lost just 25 games in four matches at Roland Garros, and was clearly physically struggling at the start of the match. Carreno Busta questioned the validity of Djokovic calling the trainer after the first set, but the world no. 1 came on court with tape on his neck and was attempting to stretch out his left arm from the first point, cradling it during the first changeover and even whacking it with his racquet.

After the match, Djokovic didn’t want to go into too much detail about the issue but said that the pain faded away as his body warmed up – entirely plausible, especially given the unusually cold conditions this French Open is being played in, which Nadal has spoken out about.
Djokovic never looked entirely comfortable, but he played good enough tennis to beat Carreno Busta fairly easily, and that’s saying something, given the way that the Spaniard has been playing and competing recently.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (Photo by Laurent Zabulon/ABACAPRESS.COM)

How will he fare against Stefanos Tsitsipas? The Greek came into his quarterfinal clash with Andrey Rublev trailing 0-3 in the head-to-head and with plenty of psychological baggage – having failed to serve out the win against Rublev in the recent Hamburg Open final, for one thing; having had six match points against Borna Coric at the US Open and ending up losing, for another. He finished it having thoroughly outplayed Rublev for a 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 win, leaving the Russian looking completely out of ideas, and having done it all looking relaxed and playing within himself – he finished with 35 winners to 17 unforced errors, and having been broken just once.

It’s hard to imagine better preparation or a more confidence-boosting victory ahead of a semifinal clash with Djokovic, and Tsitsipas is incredibly comfortable on clay. With Djokovic potentially struggling with this physical issue, too, it’s hard to think of a better set-up for Tsitsipas to really take it to the world no. 1. And yet we’ve been here before with Djokovic, so many times. He knows – almost no one better – how to manage these matches, how to handle these opponents. If he’s in around the same physical condition as he seemed to be against Carreno Busta, I back him to win in a scratchy four.

Djokovic vs Tsitsipas: Prediction

Will a French Open rematch of the fateful US Open clash see Novak Djokovic beat Pablo Carreno Busta for a place in the semifinals?

Djokovic vs Carreno Busta is live from Roland Garros on Wednesday 7 October, 5pm local/4pm BST

Novak Djokovic has only technically lost to one player in 2020 – and it’s that player who stands between him and a tenth French Open semifinal appearance.

French Open 2020: Find out tournament information for Roland Garros 2020 and how to stream French Open matches live

It was Pablo Carreno Busta across the net when Djokovic vented his frustration and earned that now-infamous default in the fourth round of the US Open. The Spaniard has never beaten Djokovic in a completed match – nor has anybody else in 2020.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Djokovic vs Carreno Busta live

French Open matches including Novak Djokovic vs Pablo Carreno Busta are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Djokovic vs Carreno Busta: Head-to-head

Novak Djokovic leads the head-to-head with Pablo Carreno Busta 3-1. Carreno Busta’s solitary victory came when Djokovic was defaulted at the US Open when trailing 5-6 in the opening set.

On clay, Djokovic leads 2-0, beating Carreno Busta at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in 2014 and 2017.

In completed matches, Djokovic has won six of seven sets against Carreno Busta.

Djokovic vs Carreno Busta: Preview

Novak Djokovic has lost more quarterfinals at the French Open than at any other Grand Slam – a grand total of four out of the 13 he has played – with defeats to Rafael Nadal, Jurgen Melzer, Marco Cecchinato and Dominic Thiem. Can Pablo Carreno Busta join that elite group?
Djokovic has yet to lose a set at the French Open this year, and he obviously has yet to lose a completed match in 2020 (or a completed match to Carreno Busta, for that matter). The question is whether he’s playing his best tennis, or if he’s yet to be meaningfully tested. I don’t think he has been playing his best, but I also think he hasn’t needed it (he didn’t play his best in Rome, either, and he still won the title).

It’s the Djokovic forehand which troubled him in New York and in Rome, and it’s the Djokovic forehand which Mikael Ymer, Ricardas Berankis, Daniel Elahi Galan and Karen Khachanov have, between them, been unable to put under sustained, meaningful scrutiny. Khachanov pushed Djokovic the most, especially in the first set, but just doesn’t have the consistency and relentlessness off the ground (or didn’t on Monday, anyway).

Pablo Carreno Busta (ChrysleneCaillaud/Panoramic)

Might Carreno Busta? The 29-year-old Spaniard has been playing some of the best tennis I’ve ever seen him play since the shutdown – better than when he was a top-10 player in 2017 (briefly). Now 10-3 since competition resumed, he did of course massively benefit from Djokovic’s default in the fourth round on his journey to the US Open semifinals, but it was his second time there, and he was playing very well against the Serb – whether he would have been able to sustain that level, and whether Djokovic would have found a way back, are open questions to which we will never know the answer.

I don’t see a win for Carreno Busta in this match. In the final analysis, the Spaniard’s game, while well-rounded, lacks those overwhelming offensive weapons which you need to end points against Djokovic, and he isn’t going to out-grind the Serb; who could? (Well, Rafael Nadal, but that’s another story.) This should be Djokovic’s toughest test so far, however, and he will have to raise his level. Expect Carreno Busta to make it a testing match.

Djokovic vs Carreno Busta: Prediction

Novak Djokovic has dropped just 15 games at the French Open so far – can Karen Khachanov make him work a little harder?

Djokovic vs Khachanov is live from Roland Garros on Monday 5 October, 3pm local/2pm BST

World no. 1 Novak Djokovic has lost to Karen Khachanov in Paris before – but not at Roland Garros, where the Serb is looking to make his fourteenth quarterfinal.

French Open 2020: Find out tournament information for Roland Garros 2020 and how to stream French Open matches live

Djokovic has cruised through the draw so far and is yet to lose a completed match in 2020, but Khachanov is the first seeded player he has faced at Roland Garros this year: Can the powerful Russian provide a stern test of Djokovic’s level?

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Djokovic vs Khachanov live

French Open matches including Novak Djokovic vs Karen Khachanov are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Djokovic vs Khachanov: Head-to-head

Novak Djokovic leads the head-to-head with Karen Khachanov 3-1. Khachanov’s sole win came in the final of the Paris Masters in 2018 when he beat Djokovic 6-2, 6-4.

They have never played on clay.

Djokovic vs Khachanov: Preview

It’s about time Novak Djokovic faced a tougher test at the French Open, after dropping five games each against Mikael Ymer, Ricardas Berankis and Colombian journeyman Daniel Elahi Galan. Will it come against Karen Khachanov, though?

This is the fourth straight year that Khachanov has reached the last 16 or better in Paris: He lost to Andy Murray in 2017, Alexander Zverev in 2018 and Dominic Thiem in last year’s quarterfinals, his maiden appearance in a Grand Slam quarterfinal thus far.

The Russian clearly has a good relationship with this place: His solitary Masters 1000 Series title also came in Paris, in 2018 when he defeated Zverev, Thiem and Djokovic on the way to the title.

That victory over Djokovic was the only one Khachanov has scored in four attempts, and indoor conditions certainly contributed to it, flattering the Russian’s big serve and booming forehand – something to keep in mind should they end up playing their match under the closed roof of Court Philippe-Chatrier, as many matches have been played recently. (Not that Djokovic plays poorly indoors – quite the contrary – but Khachanov needs all the help he can get in this one.)

22 September 2020, Hamburg: Tennis ATP Tour – German Open, singles, men, 1st round in the stadium at Rothenbaum. Hachanov (Russia) – Struff (Germany). Karen Chatschanow plays a forehand. Photo: Daniel Bockwoldt/dpa

That win for Khachanov snapped a 22-match winning streak for Djokovic which dated back to the Rogers Cup. Djokovic comes into this clash on a comparatively lowly eight-match winning streak, having claimed the Rome Masters title a few weeks ago, but the fact is that he hasn’t lost a completed match in 2020 – and thanks to the peculiar circumstances of this season, he isn’t at the end of a long one, like he was when he met Khachanov in 2018.

Khachanov hasn’t yet really kicked on from the promise he showed by winning that Masters 1000 Series title, becoming a more-or-less consistent top-20 player rather than one who threatens the top players on a regular basis. He is on a five-match losing streak against top-10 players, and those last two defeats have come at Djokovic’s hands, in straight sets. The scorelines? 3-6, 3-6, 2-6, 2-6.

The Russian plays some of his best tennis in Paris, but I’m not sure even his absolute best tennis would be enough to beat Djokovic over the best of five sets. At maximum, Khachanov might get a set by coming out, going for the lines and making absolutely everything for a set. But Djokovic will come through, and probably without too much difficulty.

Djokovic vs Khachanov: Prediction

Novak Djokovic can surpass Roger Federer for most match wins at the French Open if he beats Daniel Elahi Galan in Saturday’s third-round Roland Garros clash.

Djokovic vs Galan is live from Roland Garros on Saturday 3 October, 4pm local/3pm BST

The 2016 French Open champion tied fellow Roland Garros winner Roger Federer for 70 match wins at the clay-court Grand Slam – the most of any player in the Open Era save for Rafael Nadal, who is looking for his 96th win at the tournament when he takes on Stefanos Travaglia on Friday.

French Open 2020: Find out tournament information for Roland Garros 2020 and how to stream French Open matches live

Djokovic has won 16 of 17 sets he has played on clay in 2020 and has cruised through his matches at the French Open so far – could Colombian lucky loser Daniel Elahi Galan do something to surprise the top seed?

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Djokovic vs Galan live

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Djokovic vs Galan: Head-to-head

This will be the first match between Novak Djokovic and Daniel Elahi Galan.

Djokovic vs Galan: Preview

It’s hard to envision how Novak Djokovic’s first two matches at Roland Garros could have been much smoother for the top seed. There has been much talk about the very different conditions prevailing in Paris this year as the result of the rescheduling of the French Open from its usual May-June slot to September-October, and every day’s play so far has been affected by rain to some extent, but not under the roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier where Djokovic has been plying his trade, dropping five games each against Mikael Ymer and Ricardas Berankis.
Berankis, the Lithuanian with the compact game, had actually pushed Djokovic to a tie-break in their last meeting in ‘Cincinnati the week before the US Open. But that was Djokovic’s first match back after a six-month absence from competition enjoined by the global health crisis. Since then he had played 14 matches, winning all 13 of the completed ones, and claimed the 36th Rome Masters title of his career. It showed as he flattened Berankis on Thursday, barely breaking a sweat in the process.

To be fair, Berankis is not as dangerous on clay as he is on hard courts and the world no. 66 was clearly struggling physically, requiring treatment on his back between the second and third sets. But he was also simply out of his league.

So we don’t really know how Djokovic is playing, because he hasn’t been meaningfully tested, but we do know that he is having no trouble dusting lower-ranked opponents in these conditions and that he’s conserving plenty of energy for potentially tougher tests in the second week.

Daniel Elahi Galan (© John Cordes/Icon SMI via ZUMA Press)

Both trends are likely to continue as he faces Daniel Elahi Galan in the third round on Saturday. Galan, currently ranked world no. 153, is not a familiar name outside of the Challenger Tour where he usually plies his trade. The 24-year-old Colombian won his only Challenger title to date on clay in San Benedetto in 2018, and made his first impact on the ATP World Tour when he reached the semifinals of the U.S. Men’s Clay-Court Championship in Houston, an ATP 250, as a qualifier in 2019, beating Steve Johnson and Jordan Thompson.

Breaking into the top 200 as a result, Galan played his first main-draw match at the Australian Open in January after qualifying, losing to Chilean fellow qualifier Alejandro Tabilo. He went on to reach the final of the Newport Beach Challenger, beating then-world no. 54 Miomir Kecmanovic on the way, but went 0-2 in post-shutdown matches in Rome and Prostejov. He got two wins in qualifying in Paris, but went down to 23rd seed Henri Laaksonen, only to be able to enter the draw as a lucky loser: He’s made excellent use of that passport, beating Cameron Norrie in five sets and Tennys Sandgren in straights to set up this third-round clash with Djokovic.

Four of Galan’s seven career wins over top-100 players have come in 2020, and six of them on clay; an unknown opponent is always dangerous, but he’s completely out of his league here. Djokovic should record another efficient, dominant win.

Djokovic vs Galan: Prediction

Novak Djokovic targets the 70th French Open match win of his career as he takes on Ricardas Berankis on Thursday.

Djokovic vs Berankis is live from Roland Garros on Thursday 1 October, 2.30pm local/1.30pm BST

Coming into Roland Garros with a 68-14 record at the Grand Slam, top seed Novak Djokovic dropped just five games in an opening cruise past Mikael Ymer and will improve to 70-14 in French Open matches should he beat Ricardas Berankis on Thursday.

French Open 2020: Find out tournament information for Roland Garros 2020 and how to stream French Open matches live

World no. 66 Berankis has been playing some decent tennis lately, but has not managed to take a set from Djokovic in two previous meetings.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Djokovic vs Berankis live

French Open matches including Novak Djokovic vs Ricardas Berankis are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Djokovic vs Berankis: Head-to-head

Novak Djokovic leads the head-to-head with Ricardas Berankis 2-0, dropping five games to him at the US Open in 2013 and defeating him 7-6(2), 6-4 at the ‘Cincinnati’ Masters in New York a month ago.

This will be their first meeting on clay.

Djokovic vs Berankis: Preview

It’s tough to say too much about how Novak Djokovic is faring in these unusual French Open conditions, because the top seed wasn’t really challenged in his first-round match against Mikael Ymer. With all due respect to the Swede, he wasn’t really prepared to challenge Djokovic and the world no. 1 glided through 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 under the closed roof of Court Philippe-Chatrier, taking 99 minutes to beat Ymer.

Djokovic was broken twice, but there’s no particular cause for concern in that, not when he also broke Ymer nine times. Of more concern might be the fact that he seemed to be feeling something in his arm, but Djokovic himself didn’t seem too troubled by it, saying after the match that he thought it was just a matter of adjusting to these different conditions and the new balls the tournament is using in 2020.

Now 31-1 in 2020 and yet to lose a completed match this season, Djokovic has perfected the art of cruising through the early rounds of a Grand Slam while expending as little energy as possible, and he will look to be similarly efficient against Berankis.

Ricardas Berankis (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

Lithuania’s Berankis was 0-6 at the French Open before this year’s event, snapping that losing streak against Hugo Dellien of Bolivia in the first round in straight sets. Better known as a hard-court player, most of Berankis’s best wins have come on indoor hard courts. He was ranked as high as world no. 50 in 2016, but was knocked back outside the top 200 by injury problems; he typically divides his time between the ATP Tour and Challenger Tours. Earlier this year, he made the semifinals of the Maharashtra Open in Pune, and after shutdown he qualified for the ‘Cincinnati’ Masters in New York, losing to Djokovic in the second round in the Serb’s first match back since shutdown; he also made the third round of the US Open before losing to Pablo Carreno Busta.

So Berankis is in some decent form, but it’s not really going to matter, unfortunately for the Lithuanian. With the exception of two wins over Milos Raonic, Berankis has never fared well against the top 10; he doesn’t really have the outright weapons to win points against them, although he is compact and fleet-footed. In these conditions, he won’t be able to get the ball through the court as easily as Djokovic, and he obviously can’t outlast the Serb in long rallies. A one-sided win by Djokovic looks indicated.

Djokovic vs Berankis: Prediction

Novak Djokovic begins his quest for a second French Open title against Mikael Ymer of Sweden on Tuesday.

Djokovic vs Ymer is live from Roland Garros on Tuesday 29 September, time TBC

Top seed Novak Djokovic is one of the last to get going at the 2020 French Open and brings a 31-1 record this season, as well as an unbeaten record in first-round matches at Roland Garros, into Tuesday’s clash with Mikael Ymer.

French Open 2020: Find out tournament information for Roland Garros 2020 and how to stream French Open matches live

The Rome Masters champion is yet to lose a completed match this season and will be looking for an efficient win in this year’s unusual conditions as he takes on Ymer, a Swedish clay-courter yet to win a set against a top-10 player.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Djokovic vs Ymer live

French Open matches including Novak Djokovic vs Mikael Ymer are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Djokovic vs Ymer: Head-to-head

This will be the first meeting between Novak Djokovic and Mikael Ymer.

Djokovic vs Ymer: Preview

Novak Djokovic aims to follow fellow tournament favourites Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem into the second round – and to do so with as little energy expended as possible – as he takes on Mikael Ymer on Tuesday.

Djokovic has never lost a first-round match at the French Open and is on a 56-match winning streak in first-round matches at Grand Slam level, so the challenge facing Ymer is steep.

Much of the talk during the first two days at Roland Garros has been about the conditions at this unusual autumn edition of the French Open, where a new roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier, rain, wind and cold weather in autumnal Paris and new balls which seem to be challenging players to generate pace and spin have all contributed to some surprising results.

How will Djokovic enjoy these new conditions? The consensus seems to be that it’s trickier to slide, which benefits players who maybe don’t move like traditional clay-courters, but Djokovic is adept at sliding even on a slow hard court (which it is reportedly playing like) for one thing – and the days when he depended on defense to win points are gone; his serve and relentlessly precise groundstrokes should be very effective on these courts.

Djokovic did not play anything like his best tennis at the Rome Masters, nor really in ‘Cincinnati’ or New York prior to his shock default, but it didn’t matter; he still picked up two more Masters 1000 Series titles and stayed unbeaten in completed matches.

Mikael Ymer is yet to win a set against a top-10 player (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

Will we see Djokovic’s best tennis come out at the French Open? Perhaps, but he’s not going to need it on Thursday. Ymer, the younger of the Swedish brothers at 22, broke into the top 100 late in 2019 after winning the Orleans Challenger, his third Challenger title of the season (he also reached two finals). His previous activity on the ATP Tour has mainly been confined to qualifying matches; in 2020 he’s been working on transitioning to main-draw ATP Tour success, and has claimed wins over Jannik Sinner, Frances Tiafoe and Richard Gasquet, but has yet to win back-to-back main-draw matches and failed to qualify for the last four tournaments he attempted, including Rome and Hamburg (losing to Facundo Bagnis and Tennys Sandgren respectively).

Ymer has faced two top-10 players, and failed to get a set from either. Djokovic will be easing his way into the tournament, but even so should be able to record a very one-sided victory.

Djokovic vs Ymer: Prediction

Novak Djokovic targets fifth Rome Masters title as he faces Diego Schwartzman, the dogged Argentine playing his first Masters final, at the Foro Italico on Monday.

Djokovic vs Schwartzman is live from Rome on Monday 21 September, 5pm local/4pm BST

It’s been five years since Novak Djokovic last won the Rome Masters, but if he beats Diego Schwartzman in Monday’s final, he will not only reclaim the title and preserve his perfect record against the Argentine, but will once again edge ahead of Rafael Nadal in their battle for the most Masters 1000 Series titles of all time.

Rome Masters 2020: Find out tournament information for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and how to stream ATP Rome matches live

Standing in Djokovic’s way, Schwartzman has been having the best tournament of his life, scoring a historic win over Rafael Nadal and winning the longest match of the week in the semifinals – but can he find a way to push Djokovic?

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Djokovic vs Schwartzman live

Rome Masters matches including Novak Djokovic vs Diego Schwartzman are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Djokovic vs Schwartzman: Head-to-head

Novak Djokovic has a 4-0 record against Diego Schwartzman. Their two hard-court matches have been straight-sets wins for Djokovic, but both clay-court matches have gone the distance: At the French Open in 2017, when Schwartzman pushed Djokovic to five sets, and at the Rome Masters in last year’s semifinals when Djokovic won 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3.

Djokovic vs Schwartzman: Preview

Novak Djokovic was always favoured to reach the Rome Masters final, as he has done nine of the past 12 years including four of the last five, but it hasn’t entirely been plain sailing for the Serb. After a routine win over Italian wildcard Salvatore Caruso, each of Djokovic’s matches so far have been packed with action: Against Filip Krajinovic in the third round he played an 88-minute first set before winning 7-6(7), 6-3; qualifier Dominik Koepfer took him the distance in the quarterfinals before Djokovic won 6-3, 4-6, 6-3; and in Sunday’s semifinal against first-time Masters 1000 Series semifinalist Casper Ruud, Djokovic had to save two set points in the first set and trailed by a break for much of it before being able to win 7-5, 6-3.

Taking a broader lens, of course Djokovic has had a rough time this week, having to make a brutally quick transition between continents and surfaces. Probably the biggest area of concern has been his forehand, with errors coming thick and fast (by Djokovic’s usual standards) off that wing; at key moments, his backhand has broken down too.

However, the crucial point is that Djokovic, unlike Nadal, has made it to the final, and he now has the opportunity to win his 36th Masters 1000 Series title, edging ahead of Nadal on 35.

Diego Schwartzman (Alfredo Falcone – LaPresse – PA Images)

For Diego Schwartzman, it’s simultaneously already the best week of his career – a first Masters 1000 Series semifinal, his first victory over Nadal in ten attempts – and kind of cruel that he will have to best Nadal and Djokovic in the same tournament if he is to win his first Masters 1000 Series title.

A semifinalist in Rome last year, Schwartzman came into this year’s tournament in less than impressive form, and said himself that he was already thinking about moving on to Hamburg and trying to get some pre-Roland Garros rhythm there before facing Nadal in the quarterfinals. Instead, he played what was probably the finest match of his career, bossing a discombobulated Nadal – who was serving abysmally and struggling off the ground – around the court for a 6-2, 7-5 win.

Against Denis Shapovalov in the semifinals, Schwartzman wasn’t able to play quite the same attacking tennis he produced against Nadal, but instead relied on soaking up the pressure from the Canadian, outlasting him for unforced errors and passing him when he attacked the net. It worked, eventually, but only after the longest match of the tournament, a three-hour, 15-minute tussle in which both men were broken six times and Shapovalov served for the match before Schwartzman eventually edged it in a third-set tie-break, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(4).

Schwartzman has played good matches against Djokovic on clay before, stretching him to five at the French Open and to three in Rome last year. But the turnaround from last night’s late semifinal to Sunday’s final is a fairly brutal one. Schwartzman is also playing for a place in the top 10, a ranking milestone which clearly means a lot to him, which could bring out the best in him or cripple him with nerves.

Djokovic is not playing well enough to predict an overwhelming victory, but even in his difficult matches in Rome, he’s been able to tighten up his game when he had to: In the decider against Koepfer, in the second set against Ruud when he saved four break points. I don’t think there’s any question that Djokovic will win (nor does the market) but Schwartzman has always managed to make life interesting for him on clay before.

Djokovic vs Schwartzman: Prediction