Djokovic Scores Again
May 28, 2011 -- The hottest player on the tennis planet chalked up his 42nd-straight match win today, defeating a man many thought might end the surging Serbian's streak. But Juan Martin del Potro could not. Djokovic closed the match with nerveless panache as he hit a precise drop shot from the baseline.
The third-round encounter between Djokovic and del Potro had been touted as the next big thing on yesterday's schedule of play. However, tournament organizers mashed up the master match as they put it last up on Court Philippe Chatrier.
The sun sets on Paris late in the springtime; however, with the previous match on the show court stretched to five sets there wasn't enough daylight left for the premier fight, although it had been moved to Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Therefore at one-set all the two slam champions Djokovic and del Potro went home for the night, knowing Saturday would be a best-of-three match. There would be no time for mistakes. No time for lapses in concentration.
They began today where they'd left off, with jaw-dropping rallies, splendid serving, and top-notch athleticism. However, momentum swung in Djokovic's favor after he broke early in the third set.
His ball control solidified, which lead to unstoppable tactics and more confidence to swing out. His return of serve, which always has been an asset, pierced the court and immediately pressured del Potro to react instead of dictate.
The third set was Djokovic's.
A 28-shot rally mesmerized fans, early in the fourth. The two men exchanged backhands, as if a record for consecutive ones were at stake. But the moment was larger than that. Djokovic upped the ante with a perfect dropper. This absurdly placed shot must have weakened del Potro's will and infiltrated his concentration. He double faulted, giving fuel, and the break, to the one tour player whose tank is obviously topped off.
A flutter of breaks over the next two games gave fans a touch of hope that the match would go the distance of five sets. It didn't. Djokovic's last shot, the dropper, punctuated his skills and sheer self-regard as simply unbeatable.
"I knew before we played this match that it's going to be a definitely difficult opponent to beat, a player who can equally play well on different surfaces," Djokovic said, as reported by the Associated Press (AP). "I was managing to control my game a little bit better today than I did yesterday. I think that resulted with the win."
Final score -- 63 36 63 62.
"Today he's done much better than me and he took his opportunities and made the match very difficult," del Potro said, as reported by the AP. "I had my chance in third set, 2-all, two break points, and I miss it. Against this player, if you don't take your chance, you lost."
This win for the #2 seed Djokovic ties John McEnroe's streak of 42 straight victories from 1984. It trails Guillermo Vilas's record of 46 and Ivan Lendl's of 44.
Had the match stayed in Friday ... had the two received the respect of having a continuous stage to show off their talents ... had the sun shone a few hours longer ... Alas, speculation. Our penchant to re-shape history always ends with the reality of today.
Djokovic moves on to week two and an opponent -- a French opponent -- with as much god-given talent as the Serbian: Richard Gasquet. The #13 seed seems to have locked away a shaky mental game that had caused a few miserable occasions, for example, his quarterfinal loss to Andy Murray at the 2008 Wimbledon.
Djokovic leads Gasquet in head-to-head competition 4-1. They played in Indian Wells this year where, yes obviously, Djokovic won. Gasquet's one win over the Serbian was on a hard court in the round-robin phase of the 2007 Tennis Masters Cup.
If the Frenchman can keep pace with the points tomorrow, he has just as much of a fighting chance as did del Potro or any top-flight player. But let's face it. Gasquet is healthy and confident. With his home-court advantage, the prospect of an upset glows if ever so dimly.
Djokovic will have played three days in a row tomorrow when they hit Court Philippe Chatrier as the third match of Sunday. If the match extends beyond three sets, the odds of a French win could increase slightly. Be prepared to watch Djokovic step on the gas immediately and attempt to reach the quarterfinals of the 2011 French Open in straight sets.