Unwell Djokovic dips deep to come through tough Griekspoor challenge in Paris

Novak Djokovic edged past Tallon Griekspoor 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4. He will face the winner of the match between Daniel Altmaier and Holger Rune in the last eight

Novak Djokovic Rolex Paris Masters - Chryslene Caillaud / Panoramic Novak Djokovic Rolex Paris Masters – Chryslene Caillaud / Panoramic
Rolex Paris Masters •Round of 16 • completed
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Novak Djokovic came through a very testing encounter with Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, eventually winning 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 in two hours and 37 minutes to advance to the last eight of Paris Masters at the Accor Arena.

It is the world No 1’s 15th consecutive match win, but the run could easily have ended at number 14.

It looked as though it would be another straightforward evening in the French capital for Djokovic, as the six-time champion moved an early break up, cracking the Dutchman’s serve at the first time of asking to move into a 3-0 lead.

From 4-1 up, however, Djokovic’s performance dipped considerably as his sharp start to the contest fell puzzlingly flat. The world No 1’s first serve disintegrated, as did his groundstroke speed, while double-faults and unforced errors began leaking freely from his racquet.

Griekspoor took full advantage, pouncing all over every short ball that came his way to unleash powerful winners past the Serb. 

The result was the Dutchman breaking twice en route to winning five games in a row and snatching the first set in just 46 minutes.

Djokovic continues to struggle, but grinds out a tight second set

Djokovic required painkillers at the end of the opening set, but any physical discomfort was not at all evident on court, other than in his alarming drop-off in performance.

The second set was a tight and tense affair, with Djokovic still struggling with form and physical issues.

The energy level was very low. I took it day by day. I hope today was the lowest. Tomorrow hopefully the curve will start going in the right direction for me.

Djokovic hopes to find better form and fitness in the coming days

The Serb’s serve came under intense scrutiny throughout. But, as he has done countless times in his astonishing career, the 24-time Grand Slam champion found a way to grind it out despite playing under-par tennis. 

He fended off three break points before navigating his way to a tiebreak and taking it comfortably as Griekspoor failed to kill off an ailing Djokovic when he should have been there for the taking.

Despite looking a shadow of himself for much of the set – and indeed the match – Djokovic took the second by a single point to level up the match at one set all.

The third brought out better tennis from the world No 1, but it was still far from a straightforward affair.

Griekspoor blinked first.

After sealing a break in the fifth game of the decider, Djokovic looked comfortable at 4-3. But he lost serve in the eighth game courtesy of some excellent, aggressive returning from the Dutchman and an untimely double-fault from the Serb.

A brief remonstration with the crowd was all Djokovic needed to fire himself up, however, and he swiftly broke back to love before serving out the win to close out a truly testing encounter.

A difficult evening in Paris ultimately heads Djokovic’s way once again

It was much too close for comfort for the world No 1, who will need to see his tennis back to its usual lofty heights if he hopes to claim a record-extending seventh title in Bercy.

“I felt bad,” Djokovic said after the match.

“Not an injury but the stomach. It’s the way it is. It’s life. I had to find solutions on court. Not at my best but that was my way today.

“There were a great start for me and then I felt weak. He made me play, serving big. He was close to the victory and I was lucky because I was in trouble in the second set.

“It’s hard to have a clear mind when you spend more days on the toilets seat than on the court the last three days,” Djokovic added, alluding to what was behind his physical issues this evening.

“Tomorrow hopefully the curve will start going in the right direction for me. It’s one of these days here you have to try to hang in the match, which I’ve done.

“I found the serve in the right moment to get me out of the trouble. That makes this victory even more important.”

Djokovic will face the winner of the match between Daniel Altmaier and defending champion Holger Rune next.

If he is to come up against the Dane, that quarter-final will be a repeat of last year’s final – a stunning match that Rune won for the biggest title of his career.

It will also mean that the world No 1 will have to get past a player than has beaten him in their past two meetings, with the young Dane also getting the better of Djokovic at this year’s Italian Open.

Paris Masters, other last-16 results
(Accor Arena, EUR 5.779.335, most recent results first):

  • Daniel Altmaier vs. Holger Rune
  • Jannik Sinner vs. Alex De Minaur
  • Hubert Hurkacz (11) beat Francisco Cerundolo: 6-4, 6-3
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas (7) beat Alexander Zverev (10): 7-6 (2), 6-4
  • Karen Khachanov (16) beat Roman Safiullin (Q): 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
  • Andrey Rublev (5) beat Botic van de Zandschulp (Q): 6-3, 6-3
  • Grigor Dimitrov beat Alexander Bublik: 6-2, 6-2

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