Novak Djokovic
Credits: rolandgarros.com

“He can’t do anything wrong today”- It was that kind of day for Novak Djokovic. He got his quest for an 18th Grand Slam title back on track as he commenced his French Open campaign with a drama-free 6-0 6-2 6-3 victory over Mikael Ymer on Tuesday. Djokovic eased to a 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 victory, reaching the second round in Paris for a record-equalling 16th time. Little over three weeks since Djokovic was defaulted in the U.S. Open fourth round for hitting a line judge with a ball, he was a model of self-control as he outclassed the young Swede. It was also his 32nd win in 33 matches in 2020, his only loss coming when he was defaulted from the US Open.

Novak Djokovic
Credits: Twitter @atptour

“It felt like when a snake kills its prey,” was the blunt verdict of 23-year-old Ymer who never recovered from dropping the first set in just 20 minutes under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier. “He hits it pretty big. I had chances to rally but then I got suffocated. It was corner to corner and he rarely misses. “At the beginning, it was just surreal. The court felt big and I was nervous because I was facing the best on the other side.”

The first set took only 20 minutes as Ymer struggled to even lay a glove on the 2016 champion. Djokovic did drop serve early in the second set when an attempted drop shot fell short but there was no tetchy response this time, just an ironic chuckle. The Serb then led the applause for Ymer when the 22-year-old ran back to retrieve a lob-volley and played a showreel between-the-legs winner Nick Kyrgios would have been proud of in the sixth game. But it was one-way traffic as Djokovic polished off the second set with his trademark clean hitting. The 80th-ranked Ymer, facing a world number one for the first time, stuck manfully to his task in the third set and Djokovic became a little sloppy as he handed back a service break with a double-fault after which he flexed his hand. Djokovic glared at someone in the crowd in the following game but refocused to reel off the last three games for victory and set up a clash with Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis.

Djokovic was odds-on to win the U.S. Open, with Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer absent, and move within one Grand Slam title of the Spaniard and two behind the Swiss who is not in Paris. He is the favourite here at Paris despite Nadal’s presence. Will he be lucky this time and win his 18th?

Top seed Djokovic will meet Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis for a place in the last 32.