2016 champion Novak Djokovic takes on Spanish young gun Jaume Munar for a place in the French Open third round. Djokovic is looking to continue an encouraging run of form that saw him reach his first semifinal of the season in Rome. Munar’s compatriot Rafael Nadal did not give the young Spaniard, ranked 155th in the world, great odds of coming through this match, but did encourage him to make the most of the occasion. Will Nadal’s prediction come true or will Munar spring a big surprise?
Djokovic and Munar have never met before, but the gulf in experience between them is huge. There are very few players in the history of the game more decorated than the great Serbian, who has 68 career titles to his name and 794 wins against just 170 defeats. Munar has only played nine Tour-level matches in his career, losing six of them. He has never before won a title and has played only one Slam previously, losing in the first round in Melbourne earlier this year.
Path to the second round
Djokovic is seeded 20th in Paris his lowest seeding since the 2006 US Open when he was also the 20th seed. Then the future looked bright indeed for the Serbian and he broke into the top four and reached a Slam final for the first time the following year. Now, where his career is going, is less certain. But the former world #1 began his tournament playing well-enough as he defeated Rogerio Dutra da Silva in straight sets 6-3 6-4 6-4 on a strangely subdued Philippe Chatrier court.
Munar, a former finalist in the Roland Garros juniors, had to qualify into the main draw in Paris, as he remains ranked well-outside the top 100, although he is currently at a career-high, which will rise further still regardless of the outcome here. He did so in impressive style, defeating Smyczek and Auger-Aliassime in straight sets, before recovering from a set down to beat Lee of Korea. His escape in the first round was even more impressive, as he overturned a two-set deficit against his compatriot and 2013 finalist, David Ferrer.
How do they match up?
Djokovic is looking to return to his ruthless best from the baseline. The Serbian’s combination of power and accuracy from the back of the court, from both his forehand and backhand wing, once made him a practically unstoppable force. His defensive skills made him incredibly hard to hit through, whilst his own groundstrokes would punish any short balls. The abbreviated service motion he was using at the start of this year also looks to have given way to his pre-injury technique.
But though he has played well of late, he is not the player he was when he won this tournament in 2016, even if he is moving towards that sort of form. Against Dutra da Silva, the forehand was not quite firing and the Serb appeared emotionally flat, perhaps as a result of the lack of atmosphere. Whether Munar, who is not one of the Tour’s bigger hitters will be able to really extend Djokovic is uncertain, however. The Spaniard is consistent, but that may do nothing other than give Djokovic a rhythm.
Djokovic wasn’t great against Dutra da Silva. But Nadal wasn’t at his best against Bolelli. If Djokovic’s form starts to pick up, as it did generally as his first round match progressed, he may be able to put together a deep run here. Munar certainly does not look like the man to stop him, particularly after an extremely taxing, though hugely impressive five-set win against Ferrer. Djokovic to reach the third round in straight sets.