'Tougher' Djokovic puts Paris on notice

 - Dan Imhoff

After shaking his US Open letdown, the world No.1 rebounds on clay with Roland-Garros his clear target

Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2020, practice©Loïc Wacziak / FFT

It takes a special kind of resolve to process shock and adversity as quickly as Novak Djokovic has in recent weeks.

To cast aside and channel the disappointment of his US Open disqualification into immediate success a week later on Rome’s red clay is a case in point when examining arguably the world No.1’s greatest attribute – his mental toughness.

Throughout his charge to a record 36th Masters 1000 title in the Italian capital his matches were carefully scrutinised.

Questions were raised whether a more circumspect Djokovic might struggle to keep that spark ignited.

While far from his most glittering performances, he came through when it mattered – winning ugly, as it is dubbed, a trait the best in the business are fortunate to possess as their fallback.

“I had to accept it and move on. Of course, it was a shock for me and a lot of people,” Djokovic said of the US Open on Saturday. “But that's life, that's sport. These things can happen… I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York.

“I did not feel any kind of emotional disturbance or difficulty to actually be able to play or still express my emotions in whatever way… I have flaws as everybody else. Regardless of the amount of years and experience that I have on the tour, these things can still happen.

“I don't think significantly it does impact me that I'm unable now to show the fist pump or scream or something like that. It has happened in Rome already and everything is fine. I'm back to normal.”

The 33-year-old arrives in Paris with a 31-1 record for the year with that lone defeat being his US Open fourth-round outing.

While a later staging of Roland-Garros has the Serb facing the same challenges as every other man in the draw, few are capable of adapting their games to suit - under any conditions on any surface - quite like Djokovic.

The top seed begins his campaign against Swede Mikael Ymer and will not have to beat both his fellow incumbent Grand Slam holders in succession to triumph this fortnight.

Djokovic practised with new US Open champion Dominic Thiem - his conqueror on the clay last year - on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Saturday.

The earliest the pair could meet is on the final Sunday, with the third-seeded Austrian drawn in the same half as defending champion Rafael Nadal.

Dominic Thiem & Novak Djokovic after the semi-final at Roland-Garros 2019©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Two-time Roland-Garros runner-up Alex Corretja, commentating for Eurosport, would not be surprised to see Djokovic add a second Coupe des Mousquetaires to take his Grand Slam tally to 18 – just one behind Nadal and two behind Roger Federer’s mark.

“I am absolutely amazed at what he did,” Corretja said. “ What happened in New York, he was absolutely … an unfortunate situation and dealing with everything he’s been through, understanding that he lost an unbelievable chance to keep on adding Slams, going back to Europe and preparing to play on clay in just a few days and be capable to win in Rome.

“It’s something that shows that Djokovic is much tougher mentally than we even thought. It’s big what he did, very big … Right now, I think he feels he can win Roland-Garros again.”