After setting a potential French Open quarter-final against old rivals Rafael Nadal on Sunday, Novak Djokovic said being number one in the world could be the “best and worst” thing.
The reigning champion bid to equal Nadal’s men’s record of 21 Grand Slam titles, eased to a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 victory over 15th seed Diego Schwartzman in his last-16 tie.
He spent a record-breaking 371 weeks as ATP number one, but said it could make the matches even tougher.
“Being number one is the best and worst thing about being number one,” Djokovic said. “I have been blessed to be number one for many weeks throughout my career.
“It was always the highest goal at the beginning of each season, especially in that era (Roger) Federer, Nadal, who are the best players in the game. So of course success makes it bigger.
“On the other hand, the downside to being number one is that you are always being chased by everyone else who wants to dethrone you and win against you in every match regardless of the size or category of the tournament.”
Djokovic is playing in a major tournament for the first time this year since his exit from the Australian Open, where Nadal won his 21st slam for his coveted vaccination status.
Even after touring in the first week, one has to drop a set at the world number one Roland Garros.
The 35-year-old is looking for a third French Open title after beating Nadal in the semifinals and losing two sets in the final to Stefanos Sitcipas in the final and winning the second crown last year.
“Either way, winning the title here is the hardest part of any slam for me,” added Djokovic, who will face Nadal 10 times at the Roland Garros if he beats 13-time champion Felix Agar-Aliasim on Sunday.
“The second week I was here last year was probably the toughest of four matches, the hardest seven days of my career to win any slam.”
16th quarter final in Paris
Djokovic took his head-to-head record 7-0 against Argentina’s Schwartzman with a clinical display, where he saved seven of the eight break points he faced.
He reached the quarter-finals of the 16th French Open and has not failed to reach that stage since 2009.
The Serbian star saved two break points in the third game of the match before running into the opening set.
The second proved to be much more competitive, though, as Schwartzman took the lead 3-0 as the top picks collapsed before returning to three quick points.
Djokovic had to close out three break points to level the set at 3-3, and Schwartzman had to make it five games in a row with a daring move after he left the serve again.
Wrapping up a series of blistering baseline shots, Schwartzman will be only the second person to return from two sets to win against Djokovic in the Grand Slam.
Seeing another break point coming and going in the fifth game of the third set, Schwartzman kept putting pressure on Djokovic’s serve.
The match pattern continued, as Djokovic broke up with everyone in the next game but ended the tie as a competition.
Schwartzman saved a match point in eight games to force Djokovic to serve it, which he did, to love.
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