Djokovic concedes he has mountain to climb at French Open
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[May 22, 2019]
By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - World number one
Novak Djokovic has enjoyed two good weeks on red clay but admitted
that winning a second French Open title would be a tall order after
a crushing defeat by Rafael Nadal in last week's Italian Open final.
Djokovic clinched the Madrid Open without dropping a set and then
won a pair of epic battles against Argentines Juan Martin Del Potro
and Diego Schwartzman in Rome before succumbing to the imperious
Nadal 6-0 4-6 6-1 in Sunday's final.
That defeat aside, the Serb's form seems to have peaked in time for
the May 26-June 9 tournament. However, the 32-year-old from
Belgrade, who has won 15 Grand Slam titles, made it clear Nadal, who
is the same age, was the favorite at Roland Garros.
He also named Austrian Dominic Thiem, the 25-year-old world number
four, and 11th-ranked Italian Fabio Fognini, who is 31, as strong
"Nadal (is) the number one favorite without a doubt, and then
everyone else," a serene Djokovic told reporters after he was beaten
by the Spaniard at the Foro Italico.
"I think it's going to be a really good tournament. Dominic Thiem
has been playing some good tennis and he can beat anybody,
especially on clay.
"Fognini is also playing quality tennis, he showed against Nadal in
Monte Carlo what he is capable of," he added referring to the
Italian's 6-4 6-2 semi-final victory.
"On a given day, best of five (sets), with one day between matches,
players will have enough time to really be at their best.
"Everybody is trying to peak for Roland Garros and I am really
looking forward to it."
Djokovic's exploits on clay came after several months of patchy form
following his January triumph at the Australian Open in Melbourne
where he beat Nadal in straight sets.
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Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates winning the final against
Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas REUTERS/Javier Barbancho/File Photo
A quarter-final loss in Monte Carlo came on the back of early exits
at Indian Wells and Miami, prompting speculation by pundits that
Djokovic was heading for a dip in form similar to the one in 2016
after he won his maiden French Open title.
But the Serb silenced his critics with a vintage run in Rome,
including a rip-roaring victory over Del Potro when he saved two
match points in the second set before dismantling his close friend
in the third.
He then held his nerve against the battling Schwarzman before
running out of steam versus, leaving doubts as to whether he will
have enough in the tank to match world number two Nadal for energy
during the grueling two-week event in Paris.
Djokovic has already achieved the rare feat of holding all four
major honors at the same time, having won the 2015 Wimbledon and
U.S. Open titles before clinching the Australian Open and French
Open crowns the following year.
After two difficult years dogged by an injury which required elbow
surgery and a dramatic loss of form, Djokovic bounced back
spectacularly to clinch the Wimbledon and the U.S. Open titles again
in 2018 as well as this year's Australian Open.
He is certainly buoyed by the prospect of emulating his achievement
of holding all four majors but knows that nothing less than
perfection will be required for what would amount to a carbon copy
of his most successful 12 months on tour.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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