Day 8 Diary: Djokovic enjoys view from the top

 - Dan Imhoff

Serbian lifts lid on highs and lows of life as the world’s No.1 player

Novak Djokovic, Roland Garros 2022, fourth round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Novak Djokovic stands unrivalled as the man with most weeks on top of the rankings, so no one is better placed to assess the challenges of competing with such expectations.

A convincing straight-sets winner over Argentine 15th seed Diego Schwartzman, the 35-year-old is into 372nd week as the world’s best player and explained what it was like keeping the rest of the pack at bay.

“Being No.1 is the best and worst thing about being No.1, because of course that's an ultimate challenge in this sport, in any sport really, to be the best in what you do, particularly in individual sport,” Djokovic said.

“I have been blessed to be No.1 that many weeks throughout my career. That was always the highest goal beginning of every season, particularly being in the era with Federer, Nadal, the guys that are greats of the game. So of course that makes the success even bigger.

“On the other hand, the downside of being No.1 is that you are always being chased by everyone else that wants to dethrone you and wants to win against you in every single match regardless of the size or category of the tournament.”

Djokovic said with experience he had grown used to the feeling of being the name most hunted.

“That's giving me even more motivation when I get to face guys who want to challenge me for the top spot,” he said. “Everyone can have a great tournament or a month or three months or six months, but to be No.1 in the end of the season, you need to play well 11 months and be consistent and defend your points and face that kind of pressures over and over again.”

Gauff relives idol moment

Fans never forget a moment with their idols and Coco Gauff still remembers her encounter with French former world No.7 Marion Bartoli fondly.

The American secured her second straight Roland-Garros quarter-final berth with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Belgian Elise Mertens and recalled meeting Bartoli as a child.

“It’s an honour to be interviewed by you. When I was younger you were practising and I got your autograph,” Gauff told the crowd on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

“I remember you signed everbody’s autograph after practice, so thank you for that. It’s pretty cool to be on a court with you… Yeah I don’t know what tournament it was.

“My mum probably has the picture somewhere but I remember you were working really hard on the court and you took like 15 minutes to sign everybody’s autograph.”

The camera switched to the teenager’s mum, Candi Gauff, in the stands, who appeared to confirm the autograph was signed at the US Open.

Turn up the Heat

An avid Miami Heat fan, Gauff is closely following her team’s NBA Eastern Conference finals campaign from afar.

After her victory over Mertens on Sunday, she gave a special shout-out to her team with a written message on the camera lens ahead of Game 7 of the finals against the Boston Celtics.

Gauff wrote “Heat in 7” on the lens in reference to tonight's deciding game of the series, with the winner to advance to the 2022 NBA Finals.

“I haven't watched actually any games because the games have been way too early or late... I wake up in the morning and watch the score,” Gauff said.

“But regarding that, I feel like, really, I do believe we are going to win… I think whoever wins this game is going to win the championship.”

Clay-lah gathers momentum

After a searing run to last year’s US Open final, Leylah Fernandez won through to her first Roland-Garros quarter-final on Sunday.

The Canadian collected the nickname “Clay-lah” as a result of her venture to the second week.

Looks like it will be sticking at least a little while longer after her 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory over 27th seed Amanda Anisimova.

“I think it's actually pretty amazing that they came up with Clay-lah, because I have no creativity for that. I wouldn't think of that nickname,” Fernandez said.

“But my family do use the nickname Leylannie, using my first and middle name, and they put it together, which I always like. I know that I'm doing things right or I'm like being a good kid when they're calling me Leylannie.”

Leylah Fernandez, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Dames, 1/8 de FinaleCorinne Dubreuil / FFT

Zverev on the ball

Alexander Zverev is making the most of his mighty comeback from match point down against Sebastian Baez in the second round.

After beating Brandon Nakashima in his subsequent match, the third seed reached his fourth Roland-Garros quarter-final with a 7-6(11), 7-5, 6-3 triumph over Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Miralles.

The German later shed light on his minimalist routine between points, whereby he always uses the first two balls he is given for first and second serves.

“OK the TV wants us to play quick, so I'm going to take a ball and serve as fast as I can,” Zverev said. “I'm probably serving with the oldest ball possible because the ball boy always gives me the same ball again.

“For me, a tennis ball is a tennis ball. Whether I'm going to choose six different balls or play with one isn't going to make a difference. If I'm going to hit a double fault, I'm going to hit a double fault. It doesn't matter what ball I use.”

Champions in the house

Diehard Real Madrid football fan Rafael Nadal cut a nervous but ultimately jubilant figure watching his team triumph in the Champions League final over Liverpool at Stade de France on Saturday night, despite having a fourth round match against Felix Auger-Aliassime the following afternoon.

"I enjoyed the fact that I was able to be in my first Champions League final in my life, and my team won, no?" Nadal said on Sunday. "So have been a happy night, without a doubt. Have been one of the most crazy titles in terms of one team winning a Champions League, the way that they achieved this title is just I think unforgettable, because every match Real Madrid played have been something special.

"Comebacks, very tough moments, and even yesterday (goalkeeper Thibaut) Courtois was amazing. I feel super lucky that I was able to enjoy a final like this, so I just say thanks Real Madrid and the UEFA for inviting me and my family."

Nadal attended with his father, Sebastian Nadal, while fellow Spaniards Carlos Alcaraz and his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero were also in the crowd.

Others who attended included Aryna Sabalenka and Liverpool fan, retired former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki.

On Sunday, French football legend Thierry Henry made a return visit to Court-Philippe Chatrier, while Brazilian football great, Kaka was courtside to watch Alcaraz take on Karen Khachanov on Sunday night.

Thierry Henry, Roland Garros 2022, fourth round, Court Suzanne-Lenglen© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Quote of the day

"I can't complain much. I am in quarterfinals of Roland Garros. Two weeks and a half ago, even if I had good hopes after, positive hopes after Rome, I even don't know if I would be able to be here. So just enjoying the fact that I am here for one more year. And being honest, every match that I play here, I don't know if gonna be my last match here in Roland Garros in my tennis career, no? That's my situation now."

-- Nadal shares a hard truth after his fourth-round win over Auger-Aliassime on Sunday.

Tweet of the day

Stat of the day