Surprise results have abounded in a French Open unlike any other, which reaches its fourth round.
But first-seeded Novak Djokovic is hell-bent on bringing a sense of normalcy to the tournament.
The Serbian advanced to the round of 16 for the eleventh year in a row, equaling a record shared by the other tennis players that make up the Big Three group, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
Djokovic quickly dispelled the possibility of an early surprise or even a difficult match. He is overwhelming the rivals and making each duel too uneven. He gave up only five games, as he has done during his other duels at this edition of Roland Garros.
On Saturday, he beat Colombian Daniel Galán 6-0, 6-3, 6-2, who is ranked number 153 on the ladder.
“If you impose yourself from the start on the pitch, something I’ve done in these first three games here, you reduce the chances of the opponent really believing that they can come back and turn the game around.”
Galán confirmed the hypothesis.
“I felt inferior … I was passed over,” he confessed. “Today’s game shows that there is a lot to improve.”
The 24-year-old tennis player, originally from Bucaramanga, said that the possibility of staying without winning a single game was felt, when he was down 6-0 and 2-0.
“Of course he is superior to me, but one also feels that he must do everything perfect or he will stay at zero, zero and zero,” he said. “And I was at zero and quite concerned about that.”
Djokovic had only one concern: the rain that was beginning to fall.
“What is the reason for not closing the roof if we have it?” He asked chair umpire Jaume Campistol.
He certainly had a valid argument. But nothing was going to deprive him of the triumph on this day.
His drop shot and balloon combinations worked well. His superhuman reflexes to make 125 mph (200 kph) returns to services that must have been aces. Everything looked flawless.
And his forehand shot?
“It was like a missile, every right shot. I wasn’t even able to react, ”he commented. “I do not know. Maybe I wasn’t moving, I don’t know, it’s confusing. But seriously, I feel like it was like a rocket ship every time he sent that right. “
Eventually, Galán slipped behind the baseline when he tried to change his trajectory. Djokovic walked over to see how he was doing.
Only then was there a break and the roof was put in, taking advantage of the $ 55 million structure.
Djokovic then played with the labor crews. He even took a broom to leave the court in proper condition, in order to resume the unbalanced game.
Nadal, the second-seeded and 12-time monarch in Paris, as well as Dominic Thiem, who lost the final to the Spaniard in the last two years, play Sunday, in the fourth round, against 20-year-old rivals who are under 200 main.
The Mallorcan is measured with Sebastian Korda, the American who came from qualifying, while Thiem collides with Hugo Gaston, the French who came as a wild card.
These two tennis players are an example of the group of new entrants that fill the table this year, without a theory satisfactorily explaining why.
It may be due to the rain, the cold and the courts that have become slower due to playing in September and October, instead of doing it in May and June, as a result of the pandemic. Another possibility is aimed at the public, reduced to 1,000 daily viewers instead of 30,000.
Or perhaps the almost complete inactivity of five months in tennis affected from March. Either the preparation on the clay, or because there were only two weeks between the conclusion of the US Open and the start of Roland Garros.
Also on Saturday, Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin advanced to the fourth round, crushing Romanian Irina Bara 6-2, 6-0 in just 72 minutes.
The American Kenin has advanced to the second week of the three Grand Slam tournaments this season affected by the pandemic. He won in Australia and reached the fourth round in New York.
Russian Andrey Rublev advanced to the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory over South African Kevin Anderson.
Veteran Anderson failed to win a single break point against the 22-year-old Russian.
Meanwhile, German Daniel Almeier continues his good step, beating Italian Matteo Berrettini 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4 to advance.
Altmaier, number 186 in the world, joins two other Roland Garros debutants in the fourth round.
Greek fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas advanced as rival Aljaz Bedene retired in the third set with injury. Tsitsipas was up 6-1, 6-2, 3-1.
On the women’s side, Zhang Shuai became the first Chinese tennis player to reach the fourth round in Paris since Li na did it in 2012.
Zhang, 31, beat the French Clara Burel 7-6 (2), 7-5 in two hours and 12 minutes.
Also in the fourth round is Tunisian Ons Jabeur, who beat eighth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (7), 2-6, 6-3. Jabeur is the first Arab tennis player to advance this far at Roland Garros. AP (HN).