Dialled-in Djokovic elevates his level

The 24-time Grand Slam champion will take on Gael Monfils or Lorenzo Musetti at the third hurdle in Paris

Novak Djokovic, second round, Roland-Garros 2024©Philippe Montigny / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Reigning champion Novak Djokovic underlined his Grand Slam greatness with a businesslike 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 scoreboard to dismiss Roberto Carballes Baena. 

The world No.1 went from strength to strength on Court Philippe-Chatrier to book a 19th consecutive ticket into the Roland-Garros third round.

Story of the match

In their previous six sets over two major clashes at the US Open (2019) and Australian Open (2023), Carballes Baena couldn't steal away more than four games in each set. History repeated itself on Thursday.

The world No.63 was the braver in opening exchanges, stepping in to missile a forehand down the line for an immediate break.

The Spaniard managed to lift a volleyed forehand lob over Djokovic and then chased down a drop shot to nudge a forehand past the top seed. Two elite points. For Djokovic it was a case of biding his time.

The 37-year-old's unrelenting precision and depth on his groundstrokes enabled the top seed to take the crucial points to snatch away the opening set. No celebration, just a puff of the cheeks in relief. That had been hard work.

An athletic backhand pass on the stretch provided the catalyst for the three-time champion to compile six games in a row. All of a sudden, Djokovic was walking between points with more swagger, more energy, he was certainly playing like the world No.1.

Into the third set, Carballes Baena and the Serbian both struck delicate angled forehands, prompting Djokovic to sprint forward to slice a backhand around the net post and down the line. The 37-year-old raised his index finger in salute, cajoling the crowd, as the top seed stamped his authority on this clash.

That was the telling sequence. Without a final this season, with a few uncharacteristic recent defeats, Djokovic delivered the sort of performance to reassure his legion of fans that he's well and truly back in business.

Novak Djokovic, second round, Roland-Garros 2024©Philippe Montigny / FFT

Key stats

Djokovic edged closer to another mind-boggling milestone.

Currently, Roger Federer holds the all-time lead with 369 Grand Slam match wins. On Thursday, the world No.1 surpassed Serena Williams' total of 367 to sit in the middle on 368 major match victories.

Djokovic is the expert at peaking when it matters. He'll want to be more clinical in the last 32, having converted seven of 12 break points. In general it was another major masterclass from the Hall of Fame Serbian.

What the winner said

Form on the day: "He played with a lot of quality and a lot of precision, I had to run a lot and work for my points. After 6-4, I started to elevate the quality of my game, the quality of my forehand and also the backhand, at the end the level of my tennis, and I am happy."

Big picture in Grand Slam pursuit: "There is always that kind of conviction and belief inside of me I can win a slam. That's why I'm here. At this age I wouldn't really be competing at the slams and continuing to play professional tennis if I didn't believe that I possess quality to go all the way to the title match.

"Of course, hopes and beliefs and convictions are always high, I always aim for the highest star, so to say. But I'm being very conscious of the present moment and what needs to be done on a daily basis to build my form as the tournament progresses hopefully and then peak at the right time when it matters the most."

Drive at this stage of his career: "It is becoming a little bit more challenging for me to push myself every single tournament to be really at the top. But in terms of my commitment, that hasn't gone down, to be honest. Whatever my team and I agree on and whatever they want me to do, I do it. I show up every day on practice courts and gym and whatever I need to do fitness-wise, mental preparation, whatever it takes."