Tennis

Djokovic to open title defence against Japan’s Nishioka

PARIS: World number one Novak Djokovic will look to retain his French Open crown after mixed results earlier in the claycourt swing.

Djokovic, who turned 35 on Sunday, will begins his title defence against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.

The Serb would pull level with Nadal’s haul of 21 Grand Slam titles if he wins in Paris.

“This surface is the most demanding one… it requires a lot of effort mentally, emotionally, physically,” Djokovic told reporters.

The 20-times Grand Slam winner was toppled by Alejandro Davidovich Fokina early in Monte Carlo and Andrey Rublev in the Belgrade final in April, before he fell to teenager Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid semi-finals this month.

Unable to defend his Australian Open title due to his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Djokovic clinched his first title in more than six months when he won in Rome last week without dropping a set.

“For me, historically it has required some time and several tournaments to really feel comfortable playing on clay.

“Rarely did I feel my best on clay in the first or second tournament in the season. That was the case this season again. It took me two tournaments to really feel that I’m getting closer to the desired level,” he added.

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