Spotlight on Jan-Lennard Struff

 - Reem Abulleil

The 29-year-old German is looking to challenge Novak Djokovic on Monday.

jan-lennard struff roland garros 2019©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

Jan-Lennard Struff, or ‘Struffi’, as he is commonly known among his friends and fans, will be contesting his first Grand Slam fourth round when he steps on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Monday to face top seed Novak Djokovic.

Here are a few things you need to know about the 29-year-old German.

He’s enjoying a career best season

Struff hit a career-high ranking of 44 last month and will break the top 40 for the first time when the new rankings are released after Roland-Garros.

He has already claimed three top-10 wins this season, over Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and dismissed the likes of Borna Coric and Denis Shapovalov this fortnight in Paris.

He reached the semis in Auckland in January, the fourth round at Indian Wells in March, and the quarter-finals in Barcelona in April.

Serve is his biggest weapon

Entering Roland-Garros, Struff was in the top-10 of the 2019 ace leaderboard thanks to the 235 aces he has struck in 27. In Paris this fortnight, his 77% success rate at points won on his first serve place him in the top 10 among his peers here, while he is sixth across the ATP tour for the season in that category.

The average speed for his first serve through his opening three matches here is 197.2km/h, with the fastest one he’s struck so far clocking 215km/h.

He's a late bloomer

In his first 19 Grand Slam main draws, he lost in the first or second round. He finally made his first third round on his 20th attempt at Wimbledon last year at the age of 28.

He’s a Sampras fan

Pete Sampras is his favourite player, which explains Struff’s attacking style of play and booming serve.

“He was amazing,” Struff told the New York Times. “He served so well and played so aggressive and volleyed. I liked that style.”

Struff went to the net 129 times so far this tournament, winning 86 of those points.

He’s a new dad

Struff became a father eight weeks ago. He’s been ‘video-chatting’ with his son Henri every day. “He's another joyful moment in my life right now,” Struff told German press in Paris.

He is not superstitious

There’s been a lot of comments regarding Struff’s beard and while he plans on keeping it, he assures it’s not because of superstition.

"My girlfriend doesn't like it either, but I will keep it for now. If I shave, I look like a 12-year-old. But I could shave and still play, I'm not superstitious. I don't believe in, ‘You shave, you lose’,” he said, referring to the German saying, ‘Wer rasiert, verliert’.

In good company

Struff has been practicing with his fellow German, No.5 seed Zverev, most days in Paris, and the pair are good friends.

“I'm extremely happy for Struffi. I hope he wins more matches. We know each other well and I'm always happy when fellow Germans do well,” Zverev told German press.

He’s not daunted by facing Djokovic

While Djokovic has cruised through his opening three rounds, spending a total of five hours and 13 minutes on court, Struff has laboured through nine hours and 46 minutes on court in the 12 sets of tennis he’s contested so far this fortnight in singles (he lost his doubles opener).

He’ll be attempting to halt Djokovic’s 24-match winning streak when they face-off on Monday and hopes to provides a stiff challenge for the world No.1.

“I think, I have the weapons to tease Novak. I've already played against Roger and Rafa and on the biggest courts, that helps me a lot,” said Struff.

He credits his coach for his surge

Coached by former Davis Cup captain Carsten Arriens, Struff believes the German played a huge part in his progress these past 12 months.

“Carsten and I talk a lot and he brought so many different new aspects to the team. He's able to push me but he also shows me new ways of doing things. He's a tennis expert and has a great personality. The mental aspect is one of the keys and it help me to be more consistent, for instance with my serve,” says Struff.