After surviving a shaky opening match, four-time champion Novak Djokovic targets the Rolex Paris Masters quarter-finals on Thursday against former Australian Open semi-finalist Kyle Edmund.
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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic aims for his fifth win over Kyle Edmund when the pair clash in the Rolex Paris Masters Round of 16 on Thursday.
Playing his first match since a quarter-final loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Shanghai earlier this month, Djokovic admitted to not feeling his best health-wise as he came back from a break down and saved two set points in the opener before completing a 7-6(2) 6-4 victory over French lucky loser Corentin Moutet on Wednesday. Djokovic saved two set points while serving at 3-5 in the first set and then broke Moutet while the 20-year-old served for the opener to level the score at 5-5 – and from there, the Serbian was able to seize control of the contest, racing through the tiebreak and keeping his nose in front in the second to hold off the youngster’s upset bid.
“I didn’t feel health-wise 100 per cent in the last couple of days, but it is what it is. It’s not the first time I didn’t play at a really high level. Lots of errors, especially in the first set,” Djokovic said. “First time against a young player who is talented, very quick. Returns a lot of balls back that usually other guys wouldn’t get, he gets it. And he was pumped, and I respect his fighting spirit.
“It was a good match in the end, and I found a way to win, which in [these] circumstances… when you’re not feeling your best, is important.”
Djokovic hasn’t been at his fearsome best since winning his 16th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in dramatic circumstances over Roger Federer, losing in the Cincinnati semi-finals to Daniil Medvedev and retiring in the fourth round of the U.S. Open to Stan Wawrinka due to a shoulder injury, and while he returned to action in Tokyo to win the Japan Open without dropping a set, he was eliminated in the quarter-finals of Shanghai by Tsitsipas and was well below par in his Paris Masters opener against Moutet.
In big danger of relinquishing the year-end No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal, Djokovic will need to raise his level considerably this week and at the ATP Finals in order to fight off the Spaniard. Nadal is guaranteed to return to the top spot next Monday regardless of what happens in Paris, but if he can win the title, Djokovic wouldn’t have the chance to accumulate enough points by the end of the season to usurp him.
“I understand that I need to play better and feel better to have a chance to go far in this tournament and, as a result of that, to have a chance to still be in the battle for No. 1,” Djokovic said. “But, again, it doesn’t depend only on me. It depends on him. But my focus is on me.”
Next up for Djokovic is a man he has a 4-1 head-to-head advantage over. Kyle Edmund arrived at the Rolex Paris Masters on an eight-match losing streak dating back to the Citi Open in early August, but the Brit has been playing some solid tennis so far in the French capital, beating qualifier Ricardas Berankis 6-4 6-3 in his opening round before taking out 14th seed and ATP Finals contender Diego Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 to reach the Round of 16 for the first time.
The 24-year-old has slipped down to No. 75 in the rankings this season after failing to defend his Australian Open semi-final points, which was a springboard for a tremendous 2018 campaign as Edmund also won his first ATP World Tour title in Antwerp and made Masters 1000 quarter-finals in Madrid (where he beat Djokovic along the way) and Shanghai to hit a career-high ranking of No. 14. Edmund is only 14-21 for 2019, with injury at the start of the season playing a part in his fall down the rankings. The Brit’s best results for the year have been a semi-final in Eastbourne and a fourth round run at Indian Wells, but generally Edmund has failed to make an impact and will be hoping to bounce back strongly in 2020.
Edmund’s 2019 isn’t over yet, but it’s hard to see him troubling Djokovic in Paris – even if the Serbian isn’t quite feeling 100 per cent. Edmund has lost all seven sets he’s played against Djokovic on hardcourt, with the Serbian’s rock-solid defence just too much for the Brit to handle. Edmund might have a chance if Djokovic plays like he did against Moutet, but if his physical condition isn’t too serious, the four-time champion should be able to raise his level and come away with a relatively comfortable win.