Djokovic Fights Way Past Schwartzman to Reach Fourth Round at French Open

by John on June 2, 2017

Second seed Novak Djokovic rallied from a two-sets to one deficit to defeat a tenacious Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the third round of the French Open Friday afternoon. Djokovic, with new coach Andre Agassi looking on, weathered Schwartzman’s aggressive offensive assault through the first three sets to finally wear the 5-foot-7 Argentine down in three hours and 18 minutes. The Serb improved to 2-0 versus Schwartzman, while picking up his 58th victory (58-11) at the French Open, tying Guillermo Vilas for third on the all-time list at Roland Garros. Djokovic, the defending champion, is bidding to become the third man in history to win each of the four Grand Slams at least twice. Aussies Roy Emerson and Rod Laver are the others. Djokovic broke Schwartzman in the fourth game of the opening set and jumped out to a 4-1 lead before the Argentine came storming back with breaks of his own in the seventh and 11th games. Schwartzman cashed his fifth set point in the 12th game to take the opener. Djokovic, digging in, captured the only break of the second set with the Argentine serving at 3-4, but not before Schwartzman saved five break points in the game. Nole held at love in the ninth game to level the match. Schwartzman refused to back down and continued to pound away in the blistering baseline exchanges. His efforts were rewarded when he broke in the eighth game of the third set to take a 5-3 lead, and then saved four break points in the ninth to take a two-sets to one advantage. By the fourth set, Schwartzman was physically spent. He would hold serve just once more, that being in the fifth set, as Djokovic played flawless tennis the rest of the way. Djokovic certainly knew he’d been in a battle, though. “He definitely deserved the applause he got at the end of the match, because he was fighting, he was playing really well,” Djokovic said. “He was probably the better player for the first three sets.” The Serb will meet Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, another tough clay-courter, in the fourth round. “Sometimes you need to be challenged in order for certain things to surface, which maybe are not surfacing if you’re winning comfortably,” Djokovic said. “That’s going to happen more as I go deeper in the tournament because the matches and opponents are going to get tougher. I didn’t play too many five-setters the past couple of years. I see a lot of good things in it. I think it will put me in a good place mentally as well.” Djokovic hit seven aces to four for Schwartzman and won 78 percent of his first service points to 62 percent for the Argentine. The Serb hit 43 winners, committed 55 unforced errors and saved three of seven break points. Schwartzman had 26 winners, 58 unforced errors and defended 13 of 21 break points. While the Argentine didn’t win the match or the statistical battle, he certainly won the admiration of the crowd which gave him a rousing standing ovation at the conclusion of the contest. “It took me a while to notice, because I was packing my stuff. I could see that everyone was clapping, and that Djoko was clapping and looking my way,” Schwartzman said. “Then finally I understood and I thought, ‘Okay, get your kit in the bag and try to enjoy the moment.’ It’s a truly extraordinary thing.”

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