2024 French Open: Novak Djokovic defeats Pierre-Hugues Herbert at Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic advances to the second round, defending his title to keep his quest for a fourth French Open title alive.
Novak Djokovic
Novak DjokovicShutterStock

Navigating a Challenging Season

Novak Djokovic commenced his French Open title defense with a spectacular performance, overcoming Pierre-Hugues Herbert's home floor. Under the lights of the night session at Roland Garros, Serbia’s Djokovic, ranked number one tennis player, showcased his veteran play and prowess to secure a 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-4 triumph.

Djokovic, a 24-time grand slam champion, has had a challenging year in 2024, with struggles to find his rhythm. While his first-round performance at the French Open wasn’t his best, there were moments where he showed glimpses of his old self against Herbert. But, in reality, even though the scores were marginally close in each set, it never seemed like Djokovic would lose or wasn’t in control of the match. During the first few shots of the match, it was clear that Herbert wasn’t on the same level as Djokovic.

“I thought it was a good performance for me,” Djokovic said after winning the match. “I thought it was a good performance for me. Solid. Of course, I could have done better, I think, on return games, but also credit to him for serving well, for changing things up.”

A Grueling Encounter

Facing the French wildcard Herbert, Djokovic was tested by his opponent and the intense home crowd. Herbert, ranked 142nd, displayed an impressive performance against the No.1 tennis player, feeding off the crowd chants and support every time he got a point. It was the second set where Djokovic experienced frustration due to making several errors and letting the game slip by with his mistakes. The French crowd added to the intensity, jeering Djokovic at one point when he took a moment to towel off after falling on the court and got clay all over him, attempting to hit a tough shot.

However, the 37-year-old’s ability to rise to the occasion was evident in critical moments. Every time the game got close, he would quickly close it. He played a stellar tiebreak to clinch the second set and maintained his focus to secure the victory after trailing 4-6.

“In the moments when it mattered, I think I delivered—played a great tiebreak. Stayed focused,” Djokovic noted. “I’m glad that I started the way I started, the way I felt on the court. Compared to the previous weeks of tournaments I played, I felt good. So, I’m moving in a positive direction. Yeah, it’s just the beginning.”

Maintaining Dominance

All the statistics in the match highlighted that Djokovic won the game and was the better player, including a higher percentage in first and second serve, breakpoints, and points won. But even though the stats make it seem like Djokovic ran away with the match, it was still a close game up close, and Herbert showed that he wasn’t far along in this competitive encounter. The play of the match came with Djokovic’s stunning backhand winner that set up match point, concluded by a double fault from Herbert.

Even though it doesn’t seem like a big win because it’s still the first round of the tournament, it’s still impressive because it extends Djokovic’s remarkable record of never losing in the first round of a Grand Slam since starting his career as a tennis player, he now stands at 69-0 in opening matches at the majors.

Looking Ahead

Next up, Djokovic will face Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena, ranked 63rd, in the second round on Thursday at 2 a.m. Djokovic continues to capture the most singles titles in history with zero pressure and low expectations. His focus remains on building momentum and improving in each match.

Djokovic’s journey to his 25th grand slam title will be closely watched as the French Open progresses. His performance against Herbert, while not flawless, demonstrated the promise of playing better in the coming rounds. The stage is set for Djokovic to chase history at Roland Garros, adding another chapter to his illustrious career.

Other Notable Performances

The first round closed on a day during which rain delayed play for several hours early in the day on two courts.

Casper Ruudm, last year’s runner-up and a major champion, Aryna Sabelenka and Elena Rybakina advanced smoothly in the women’s singles. Ruud defeated Felipe Meligeni Alves, while Sabelenka and Rybakina overpowered their opponents, Erika Andreeva and Greet Minnen.

Sabelenka is eyeing a historic achievement of winning the Australian Open and Roland Garros in the same year.

“I’m just trying to separate myself from all those facts, “ said Sabelenka after the match. “I know I’ll be able to focus on myself and fight for every point in each game. But I just try to take it step by step.”

Novak Djokovic
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