Djokovic defeats Nadal Roland Garros 2021

Novak Djokovic claims that ‘it doesn’t appear like’ Rafael Nadal’s last Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic has began his Roland Garros title defence with a straight sets victory, and the Serbian reacted to Rafael Nadal’s potential final appearance at the Paris major.

Djokovic beat French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert, 6-4 7-6(3) 6-4, in just over two-and-a-half hours on Court Philippe-Chatrier last night.

After the match, Djokovic spoke to Eurosport about his first round match in Paris, “I don’t think you’re really thinking of not going for too much on the court.

“Especially now at this age and stage of my career, I really see every match as a golden opportunity. I don’t know how long I’ll have opportunities to play at a high level so I try to use it, I try to do everything I possibly can to win.”

It has been a relatively poor season so far for Djokovic, who has been unable to reach a final ahead of Roland Garros for the first time since 2018.

And Djokovic admitted that he is finding things more difficult at this stage of his career, “The experience can help with how you approach the match, how you handle and manage certain situations in the match.

“But other than that, experience cannot help you with the game itself. You have to deliver your game. Everyone today who is in the main draw plays great tennis. Especially on clay, you have to deliver the goods, you have to be physically fit and ready to go in the long rally exchanges.”

The world No.1 added, “Of course it’s becoming tougher for me, but I’m still enjoying myself. Out of all the clay court tournaments, this is by far my favourite, the way I’m playing the ball and feeling on the court. Hopefully I can keep it going in the right direction.”

Before his opening round match, Djokovic was one of many famous faces spotted in the crowd on Monday watching Nadal play against fourth seed Alexander Zverev.

In this match, Zverev became only the third man in history to beat Nadal at Roland Garros (alongside Novak Djokovic in 2015 and 2021, and Robin Soderling in 2009).

Despite his rivals loss, Djokovic appeared impressed with Nadal’s performance, “I think he played very well compared to what we saw from his performances in Rome and Barcelona. I think he played really on a much higher level. Even though he lost in straight sets, the second and third set were really close.”

The 37-year-old continued, “He could have easily won one of those two sets, and maybe the match would have gone in a different direction. But he was a bit unlucky with the draw, because Zverev is in great form, winning Rome, and he was serving extremely well.

“It’s tough to play Sascha [Zverev] when he’s feeling the ball so well. But it was great to watch. I don’t recall the last time I actually watched a set of any match live on that level, other than Davis Cup matches.”

It is currently unclear as to whether that will be Nadal’s final Roland Garros match, with the Spaniard not 100% confirming either way.

However, Djokovic appears to think that the 14-time champion will return, “It was great. I saw Iga [Swiatek] was there, [Carlos] Alcaraz was there, and we all wanted to get a glimpse of the atmosphere, of that possibly unique moment, you know, that could be his last. But it doesn’t appear like that.”

While Nadal is out of the tournament, Djokovic now moves onto his second round match against Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena that will take place tomorrow.

Inside the baseline…

It definitely was not the strongest performance from Novak Djokovic, but he got the job done in straight sets which will be the most important thing for him. The world No.1 has a workable draw, which should enable him to find form ahead of playing some of the more difficult opponents in the field. In terms of Djokovic’s comments about Rafael Nadal, it was definitely the Spaniard’s best performance of the year, he was just dealt with a very difficult draw. That being said, it is impossible to know whether he will be at Roland Garros next year, but it seems unlikely at the moment.

READ MORE – Rafael Nadal: I’m not saying I’m retiring today

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.