French Open 2019

No stopping Djoko: Laver

Novak Djokovic has yet to drop a set at Roland Garros this year, and is in a record 10th successive French Open quarter-final after beating Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 yesterday.
Novak Djokovic has yet to drop a set at Roland Garros this year, and is in a record 10th successive French Open quarter-final after beating Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Australian great backs Serb ace to match his feat of holding all four Grand Slam titles twice

PARIS • Novak Djokovic is the favourite to win the French Open and become the second man ever to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously on two separate occasions, according to Rod Laver, the man he is trying to match.

The Australian achieved the feat in 1962 and 1969 with perfect calendar-year Grand Slams. Djokovic has held all four Majors, spanning consecutive years, when he claimed his first French Open title in 2016.

The Serb reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros yesterday with a straight-sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff and will replicate his career Slam feat if he goes on to win.

He showed why Laver has tipped him to triumph after booking his 10th successive French Open appearance in the last eight - an achievement even defending champion Rafael Nadal has not achieved.

Despite the drizzling conditions on Court Philippe Chatrier, the world No. 1 made only 11 unforced errors in swatting aside Struff,.

The 15-time Major winner next faces fifth seed Alexander Zverev, who edged out Italian Fabio Fognini 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) .

Djokovic said: "I have plenty of experience dealing with situations where you're facing break points or where it's tense.

"It's good to be tested, from that perspective, but at the same time, it's also good to cruise along and kind of conserve the energy for what's coming up.

"I'm really pleased with every aspect of my game. Everything is coming together beautifully."

The top seed has also yet to drop a set so far, which is why Laver is favouring him over Nadal.

The 80-year-old added: "I marvel at someone like Novak with his ability and his consistency. The way he plays the game, he doesn't go bang, bang, bang, ace, volleys. He wins every point from the baseline.

"He's won all four at one time so he's already done that portion of it. He's just won the Australian (Open), if he wins here, he's on line to win the (calendar) Grand Slam.

"It's a long way to go, he's only got one so far. (The French) is probably, for him, the toughest because you've got so many players. Besides Nadal or (Roger) Federer, you've got (Stan) Wawrinka who's just come through a huge match."

Separately, Japan's Kei Nishikori came back from 1-4 and 3-5 down in the final set to beat Benoit Paire of France, setting up a quarter-final clash against "greatest-ever clay-court player" Nadal.

The delayed match took just under four hours, but the seventh seed finally prevailed after a 6-2, 6-7 (8-10), 6-2, 6-7 (8-10), 7-5 win.

Paire was trying to make a Slam quarter-final for the first time, but was ultimately undone by 16 double-faults and 79 unforced errors.

In the women's draw, American 14th seed Madison Keys reached the quarter-finals for the second successive year with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Czech Katerina Siniakova, the conqueror of US and Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka.

Keys will face Australia's Ashleigh Barty, who beat American Sofia Kenin 6-3, 3-6, 6-0.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2019, with the headline 'No stopping Djoko: Laver'. Print Edition | Subscribe