Novak Djokovic takes another step closer to making history after dispatching Hubert Hurkacz in first round of French Open
- Novak Djokovic is hoping to hold all four Grand Slams for the second time
- The great Rod Laver is the only man to do so on two separate occasions
- All aspects of the Serbian’s game looked in fine working order on Monday
The 32-year-old Serb comes into Roland Garros on a quest to become the second man ever – after the great Rod Laver – to hold all four Grand Slams on two separate occasions. Given the era in which he is operating, that would be a quite remarkable achievement.
All aspects of the Serb’s game looked in fine working order against 22-year-old Hurkacz, who has been tipped for big things and compared in style to Andy Murray.
Novak Djokovic took one step closer to history with a clinical dissection of Hubert Hurkacz
Djokovic’s great rival for this title, Rafael Nadal, preceded him on Court Philippe Chatrier and had looked a little passive despite a straightforward victory. But Djokovic, even though he defends better than anyone, was in the mood to attack and he never let Hurkacz settle for a moment, hitting 27 winners.
Nadal must still be considered the clear favourite for the title but Djokovic will fancy his chances.
The Spaniard won their last meeting on clay in Rome but Djokovic was exhausted after two long matches in the previous rounds. The Serb will look instead to the Australian Open final when he handed Nadal an absolute pasting.
Hurkacz only graduated to the ATP tour around this time last year and he has had a superb 2019 season. He won his first match at Masters level in Indian Wells and went on to reach the quarter finals. He has beaten world No 4 Dominic Thiem and No 7 Kei Nishikori.
All aspects of the Serb’s game looked in fine working order against 22-year-old Hurkacz
There is something to be said for the comparison with Murray. Hurkacz hits a nice double-handed backhand and his footwork on the return – when he takes one big stride forward – is reminiscent of the Scot.
He is part of a growing generation of talented players who are stepping forward. But Nadal and Djokovic are proving immoveable, at Grand Slam level at least.
The start was always going to be crucial for Hurkacz and he did not land enough first serves in the opening game, allowing Djokovic to secure the break. He served much better thereafter, generating serious power from his 6ft 5in frame and landing eight aces.
But Djokovic exposed his movement, which looked sluggish compared to the blur of flashing feet on the other side of the court.
Djokovic hit the drop shot beautifully on the backhand side and that bodes extremely well. If he is driving the ball consistently deep while also having the option of playing it short he becomes almost impossible to defend against.
That single break of serve was enough in the first set and, despite being broken at 4-1, the second was just as routine for Djokovic.
As in the first set, Djokovic broke in the opening game of the third. Another break at 4-2 gave him the chance to serve out and set up a date with Swiss lucky loser and world No 104 Henri Laaksonen in the second round.
Djokovic’s great rival for this title, Rafael Nadal, preceded him on Court Philippe Chatrier