Come, go ahead, a little more. Louder...
The particular relationship of Novak Djokovic with the Paris stands lives this Sunday the umpteenth episode when the Serbian signs a good point – with 4-2 in favor, in the first partial – and begins to gesturize. The stands of the Chatrier, always wanting to march, begins to whistle and Nole enters the rag engaging, asking the respectable to increase the decibels because music sounds to his ears and for each crackpot grows a point his desire to conquer this Roland Garros. He is not on the wrong track: 6-3, 6-2 and 6-2 to Juan Pablo Varillas, in 1h 57m. That is, it will parade once again through the quarterfinals, and there are already 17; no one, not even Rafael Nadal himself, 16, has done it on so many occasions; neither did Roger Federer, 12.
The Swiss watches the tournament on television, Nadal does it sideways from the stretcher – five months off after going through the workshop, psoas and hip – and he continues to discount boxes in the French arena, where the sweet strip of the tournament begins to be defined. Without being completely fine, and "playing cat and mouse" again with the public, Djokovic already flies over the penultimate round, in which he will face Karen Khachanov. The Russian, eleventh in the world, lifts the set awarded to Italian Lorenzo Sonego (1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7) and 6-1), but warns of the arrival of the Balkan and suffers cold sweats, since the statistics reflect a single victory in the nine matches against him; it is far away, in 2018, and it was precisely in Paris. Of course, indoors and hard, Bercy.
Nadal, five months off after surgery
They lean on the ramps, the mess is looming and, it is no coincidence, Nole's tone increases and his game gains verve against a rival who gives more than good the completed route. The Peruvian Varillas, 27 years old and first representative of his country in the eighth since he managed to reach the level Chaim Yzaga in 1994, wars and gets little reward. He hits the wall. He had overcome the three previous scales in five sets, but falls hopelessly into the spider web woven by the Belgrade. The moment of truth approaches and Nole gets bigger. He is three wins away from his twenty-third major, and suggests that now, he is beginning to feel that his shots hurt.
Novak Djokovic played some of his best tennis of the tournament against Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas 💯
Watch the highlights 👇 #RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/29iGQz9ayr
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 4, 2023
"I enjoyed it a lot, it was my best performance. I am very happy and very motivated to continue," he replies to Marion Bartoli in the interview. "17 presences in the rooms? That means I'm getting old...", he jokes in French, while the Parisian stands file rough edges and cheers him. That said, curious relationship; Paris and Djokovic, neither with you nor without you. "I felt a lot of energy and this win comes at the perfect time. It's going to get tough, but I like how I'm playing. I feel better than in the last few months. These last ten days are the best I'm finding myself in since Australia [where he won]. I have to keep going and not allow myself to think too far, but I'm on the right track," he adds in the chat with Mats Wilander on Eurosport.
Despite his strata fast records, Djokovic continues to prove his competitiveness on clay. He has 89 victories in the tournament – only ahead of Nadal, with 112 – and aspires to his third summit at Roland Garros, where he landed with a reduced speech and the worst preparatory figures of his career. Despite the inactivity after Australia – he did not compete on the North American tour because of his refusal to get vaccinated against covid – and despite all the circumstances, feeling older and missing Nadal, the pains he says he suffers too, Nole is already there, stealthy, like the predator behind the bush. If he raises the Musketeers' Cup on the 11th, he will match purebred earthlings like Kuerten, Wilander or Lendl. In Paris, the great racket eater gradually awakens.
You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.