September 30, 2020
For Novak Djokovic, it was a fairly simple day at the office.
And after what happened at the US Open, he could certainly appreciate one of those.
But there was one very special moment for a variety of reasons
First the basic facts. Djokovic beat Mikael Ymer in straight sets and only lost five games. No massive surprise there.
But the magic came when the 22-year-old Swede chased down a Djokovic lob.
With his long hair flowing and his Djokovic-branded shoes eating up the dirt at a frantic pace, Ymer, of Ethiopian descent, made for quite a stunning sight anyway.
But suddenly he conjured the most spectacular “tweener” imaginable.
It flew past Novak and left the best player in the world spectacularly stranded. Hot dog? This was a sizzler.
At that moment the crowd erupted in wild applause. Djokovic, almost smiling, joined in.
A couple of things there. First, it was wonderful to hear a tennis crowd so engaged once more.
The atmosphere will be so much better at Wimbledon 2021, of course. But this was a start.
Second, it was great to see Djokovic embrace the moment and follow the spectators by tapping his racquet above his head in warm appreciation.
It’s fair to say Novak had a tough summer. Disqualification from the US Open for hitting a line judge with a ball was almost the last straw.
But Djokovic has returned to prove that a positive attitude can emerge from the most negative situation.
After beating Ymer, Novak reflected on those dark days after Flushing Meadows: ‘It was a bit of a shock for me and my team for about a week.
‘But it gave me a chance to go home and see my family, train on clay and reset for Rome.
‘Hopefully now I can have another successful year in Paris too.’
Djokovic must be one of three serious contenders for the French Open crown.
They are all perfectly balanced in their quest for glory. Novak is fresh, having missed most of the US Open.
The same goes for Rafael Nadal, who didn’t even travel to America. He’s a little rusty but Rafa is a serial winner here in Paris.
Dominic Thiem went the distance at Flushing Meadows. But at 27 he’s younger than the others and can handle another major so soon.
And Thiem has the new confidence that comes with being crowned a Grand Slam champion at last.
Which of these three superstars will prevail? It’s impossible to say, because they really do appear to have an equal chance.
Each man would be a worthy champion. Anyone else would be a surprise. That won’t stop the others from trying. And the tournament isn’t short of young pretenders.
That’s why we heard the welcome sound of an enthusiastic crowd during the thrilling match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jaume Munar.
The Greek contingent ended up the happiest as Tsitsipas came back from two sets down to triumph in five.
Popular Stefanos vented his frustration early on. But he finally found his composure to prevail 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4- 6-4.
The French Open is shaping up very nicely for some even more dramatic clashes further down the line.
It’s good to see Novak Djokovic smiling again. It’s good to hear spectators cheering again, too.
We can’t wait to hear the reactions of the Centre Court crowd again at Wimbledon 2021.
We’re counting down the months. Are you?