Novak Djokovic started his campaign for a sixth title at the Italian Open by defeating Taylor Fritz in straight sets on Tuesday. Djokovic, who is playing his first tour event since the Serbia Open, overcame a two-hour rain delay to beat the American 6-3, 7-6 (5) and advance to the Round of 16.
Novak Djokovic did display a moment of frustration during the match though. Mid-way through the second set it began raining at the Foro Italico, but the chair umpire Nacho Forcadell made the dubious decision of letting Djokovic and Fritz play on.
The Serb then turned in a sloppy game while serving for the match, at which point the rain got even heavier. Incensed at his serve getting broken in such difficult conditions, Djokovic yelled, “How much more do you wanna play?” in the direction of the umpire.
Speaking to the media after his win, Novak Djokovic seemed at a loss to explain why he lost control of his emotions at that stage of the match. Djokovic admitted that he was a little stressed out because of the conditions, but suggested that his past experience with such situations should have prevented him from getting ‘upset’.
The Serb then promised to take a ‘lesson’ from the unsavory incident.
“I was stressed out, but I think it was the right call to stop the match,” Djokovic said. “It’s not the first time or probably the last that I’m going to experience such conditions. And even with that much experience behind me I still get upset and lose my cool. But it’s OK. At the end of the day these are great lessons – I will try and take way some important things from this day.”
Novak Djokovic then admitted he was relieved the match didn’t go the distance, since he wasn’t playing well towards the end. The World No. 1 also vowed to get his game in better shape for the rest of the tournament.
“When I came back, I thought we were quite even actually till the last point,” Djokovic said. “I’m glad that I managed to finish off this match in straight sets. I know I can play better, and I’m going to work tomorrow trying to make sure I do that in two days.”
When asked for his thoughts on the match as a whole, Novak Djokovic claimed that he found it hard to deal with the rain and slipperiness of the court. He did also acknowledge, however, that his style of play allowed him to adapt better to the conditions than Taylor Fritz.
“It was a very strange match with strange conditions,” Novak Djokovic said. “Obviously playing under the rain non-stop for almost two full sets, it is challenging for both me and him. I thought that I had an advantage there because the conditions were slower which allows me to return his serves, because he’s got really big serves.”
Djokovic added that he had kept his game sharp for most of the match, and that Fritz had managed to lengthen the match on his own accord by earning the break back twice in the second set.
“I kind of kept the match under my control for most part of the two sets, then served for the match; very sloppy service game,” Djokovic said. “He played well, made a great passing shot to come back.”
Novak Djokovic was later probed about how he spent his time during the rain delay, to which he replied that he played parcheesi with his team. Djokovic also revealed that he made sure to eat, rest and break down the game with his coach before leaving for the court again.
“We played parcheesi, we play every day now,” Djokovic said. “When there is rain delay, you check every half an hour. With eating, resting, you really have to know yourself… I was listening to music, talked to my coach, but to my kids as well. I was not bored for sure.”
When I won in Roland Garros in 2016, that was the pinnacle moment of my career: Novak Djokovic
During the presser Novak Djokovic also reminisced about how he had been denied by Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka at Roland Garros before he won his first title there.
The Serb was beaten by Nadal in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and by Wawrinka in 2015, before he finally laid his hands on the elusive French Open trophy in 2016. That win made him the reigning champion at all the four Majors, and the eighth male player in the Open era to achieve the “Career Grand Slam”.
On Tuesday Novak Djokovic recalled his past defeats in Paris and revealed that he considers his subsequent triumph in 2016 to be ‘the pinnacle moment of his career’.
“I came up short againt Nadal and Wawrinka chasing Career Slam, but I was always motivated,” Novak Djokovic said. “When I won in 2016, that was the pinnacle moment of my career, best 15 months of my career.”