Novak Djokovic far from perfect in first round match at French Open

Djokovic still seemed a bit off in the first round of the French Open but he pushed through. Here is how.
Djokovic won his first-round match at the French Open.
Djokovic won his first-round match at the French Open. / Tim Goode/GettyImages

Novak Djokovic has oddly taken a huge dip in form since last November. While one might assume that age is simply catching up to the Serb, that does not seem overly logical. After all, at the end of 2023, he was winning the ATP Finals and had won three Grand Slams last year. If age was going to be a problem, the issue would have occurred in about a month.

In 2024, Djokovic has not even been to the final of any event he has played. He is not hitting with less pace and his ability to make shots few humans could is still with him, but he does not make such shots as consistently. The problem seems more mental as if Djokovic suddenly lacks the proverbial killer instinct.

He normally saves himself a bit for Grand Slams as well. Those are obviously the marquee events in tennis, and the winners of those tournaments are better remembered than those of other tournaments. Djokovic has 24 major titles, two more than second-best Rafael Nadal. The Serb knows how to win and is not likely to have forgotten how.

Novak Djokovic not perfect but gets into second round of the French Open

To be fair, he did not play poorly in his first-round match of the 2024 French Open against Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Herbert played well and solidly and did not make so many unforced errors that Djokovic was going to win either way. The Serb was going to need to earn the victory.

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At times, though, Djokovic appeared at loss for what to do with Herbert's serve. The Frenchman was not overpowering Djokovic, but kept the Serb off-balance with his placement. Djokovic could not guess where the ball was going to go so could not cheat very much on points. He had to win every point and, except early in the match, had few easy games.

He did end up taking the match 6-4 7-6(3) 6-4. His path to repeating as French Open champion gets extremely difficult soon, too. Djokovic will need to raise his level by several notches if he is going to hope to win against potential opponents Alexander Zverev, Casper Ruud, and Jannik Sinner.

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