Things are hotting up at the French Open as the tournament enters the last sixteen stage. While the bottom half of the draw has fallen apart, the contenders in the top half have done their job and remain in at this stage. That includes third seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic, who plays Juan Pablo Varillas for a spot in the quarter finals.
There were some ups and downs but Djokovic delivered when it mattered against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, taking the match in straight sets despite being a break down in each of the first two. “I knew it was going to be a very difficult match, a very physical match,” Djokovic said after the 7-6 7-6 6-2 victory. “We played three hours for only two sets. He contested very well. He is an amazing fighter and an amazing player. He has very few weaknesses in his game.”
In a week where South Americans have thrived, Varillas’ run is definitely the most surprising. The Peruvian is playing in just his third slam main draw and had not won a match on either of the past occasions. He has done it with the most work possible, winning three straight five setters to get to this stage. The most recent of them was against Hubert Hurkacz, which has to be considered an excellent scalp regardless of the Pole’s issues on this surface.
Even without the likely fatigue that will be setting in after three epic five setters, it was always going to be incredibly difficult for Varillas to keep this one even close. He is a clean ball striker but the consistency needed to hang with Djokovic is not going to be there at this point, especially as he ups his game as the tournament goes on. Last year’s champion may well just be peaking at the right time ahead of expected big matches with Karen Khachanov and Carlos Alcaraz.
Prediction – Novak Djokovic in straight sets