Djokovic tested in Fucsovics fight

The two-time champion has reached the third round for an 18th consecutive RG

Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2023, second round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT
 - Nick McCarvel

A nearly one-hour, 30-minute first set was just the wake-up call that two-time Roland-Garros champion Novak Djokovic needed to reach his 18th consecutive third round here in Paris.

The No.3 seed, chasing a men’s all-time record of 23 major titles won, survived Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in that opening set before finding his form and overcoming a late-match wobble for a 7-6(2), 6-0, 6-3 win, advancing his record to 87-16 at this event since 2005.

The Serbian star moves a step closer to a mouth-watering possible semi-final with world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz, who won earlier on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, the No.29 seed, awaits - the Spaniard having stunned Djokovic in Monte-Carlo just over a year ago in their most recent meeting.

Story of the match

Set one was pivotal as Djokovic opened a 3-0 lead and then served for it at 5-3. But nothing was coming easy, as the clock ticked over an hour and Djokovic stared down break points in three consecutive service games.

He couldn’t stave them off in the ninth, a six-minute game going the way of the world No.81 on an uncharacteristic Djokovic double fault. When Fucsovics held for 5-all, he had won 13 of the previous 16 points played.

A frustrated Djokovic seemed to be off: His footwork not sharp as he shouted towards his player’s box, which included coach Goran Ivanisevic. But after Fucsovics saved a second set point in the 12th game, Djokovic displayed his dominance in the tiebreak, jumping to a 5-2 lead and closing out the set in some 90 minutes.

Novak Djokovic, 2e tour, Roland-Garros 2023 ©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

Then the shoulders relaxed: The future Hall-of-Famer roared to a 4-0 lead in a matter of minutes before he’d break again, though he needed a back-and-forth service game to hold for a bagel set, 6-0. Djokovic hit just six unforced errors in a clean-as-can-be effort.

The third set offered some rocky road for the 2015 and 2021 winner here, too, Djokovic being broken after getting an opening game break. The Serbian again seemed out of sorts at times, but managed a break in the fifth game and was offered one more test, broken at 5-2.

He would manage an eighth break on Fucsovics to close out the match, a forehand missed wide to close out the affair.

Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2023, second round©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

Key stats

With over 100 points played in the first set, much of the numbers came from there, with more than half the two-hour, 44-minute affair being played out in set one.

Djokovic made 77 per cent of his first serves in that set, but the tiebreak experience served him best, as he moved his mark to 11-4 in breakers so far this year and 304-162 in his career.

Djokovic not only made inroads on the Fucsovics serve, but he played pressure points better: Winning eight from 12 of break point chances, the Hungarian having the same number of chances but breaking only three times.

The two players equalled one another at 28 winners apiece, but a hidden stat proved lethal for Djokovic: He forced Fucsovics into 49 errors, while hitting just 26 himself.

Djokovic moved forward well, too, going 18 from 28 at the net.

What the players said

“I’m very happy with the match, I had a lot of intensity throughout the first set, which was difficult for me,” Djokovic told Fabrice Santoro on court. “I hope that I amused you, especially in the first set. It wasn’t enjoyable for me, but after it, now I can say, I enjoyed it.

“Fucsovics is good on all surfaces. He has nothing to lose when he comes out on this stage against me,” he added, speaking to the crowd as he often does in French.

Djokovic then apologised for what he called a “basic level” of French. “It’s efficient for basic communication,” Djokovic smiled, though he conducted the entirety of the interview in French.

“These night sessions are very special,” he said to close.