September 30, 2023

Final of the fourth round of the French Open

Serbia's Novak Djokovic gestures as he plays against Peru's Juan Pablo Varillas at the French Open - Getty Images/Emmanuel Dunand
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic gestures as he plays against Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas at the French Open – Getty Images/Emmanuel Dunand

3:18 pm

Djokovic 1-1 Varillas* (*indicates next server) Djokovic leads 2-0 in sets

Djokovic holds on.

3:12 pm

Djokovic* 0-1 Varillas (*indicates next server) Djokovic leads 2-0 in sets

Varillas keeps his storage. A few people make a little more noise in the crowd. Djokovic vents his frustration to the umpire, although it could just as well be because he just hit a long forehand in a rally where he had the upper hand.

3:07 PM

Only once did Djokovic lose 2-0

in his career. And that was 13 years ago, against Jurgen Melzer, here.

3:05 pm

Novak Djokovic leads two sets to love

6-3, 6-2.

3:05 pm

Djokovic 6-2 Varillas* (* indicates next server) – ND wins second set

Real authority from Novak as he comes to the net to win a run and then serves an ace. Some screaming from the crowd at 30-15 disturbs Djokovic. Nails that also serve and gives itself two setpoints. Attempts a chipped backhand volley, but hits it into the net. Great length on a basis attracts the error and that is game and second set, Djokovic.

2:59 pm

Djokovic* 5-2 Varillas (*indicates next server) Djokovic won first set 6-3

Varillas pushed hard here. It’s deuce. He wins the next point. No turning back decent serve for ND and Varillas extended this second set by at least one game.

2:54 PM

Djokovic 5-1 Varillas* (*indicates next server) Djokovic won first set 6-3

Varillas is fast, he is agile and he is a good defensive fighter. But he is not really able to put any pressure on Djokovic, who just looks bigger, stronger and rounder. Which of course he is. No shame in losing to this. But Varillas is not up to any kind of challenge in this Djoko serve game and it’s all very comfortable for Novak at the moment.

Varillas will serve to stay in the set.

2:52 pm

Djokovic* 4-1 Varillas (*indicates next server) Djokovic won first set 6-3

Djokovic wins the longest rally of the match, 24 shots. And Varillas is now officially in the soup. His backhand lets him down, he misses the target, and it has broken again.

2:47 PM

Djokovic 3-1 Varillas* (*indicates next server) Djokovic won first set 6-3

Djokovic solidifies his advantage in this set while holding his serve.

2:45 p.m

Djokovic* 2-1 Varillas (*indicates next server) Djokovic won first set 6-3

Varillas holds on.

2:44 PM

One or two comments from the audience

and I really mean one or two. Hard for me to tell what they are saying through the TV. Djokovic seems to be having a good time. Of course there are also many supporters for him here.

2:40 PM

Djokovic 2-0 Varillas* (*indicates next server) Djokovic won first set 6-3

ND holds its opening service game and has also taken control of the second set. Beautiful shot that comes towards the net here from the gluten-free topper, a backhand volley from his own diaphragm. Makes the very difficult look very easy.

On a side note, I think Rolex makes the worst advertising on TV right now. These are even more ominous and exaggerated than those of golf.

2:37 pm

Djokovic* 1-0 Varillas (*indicates next server) Djokovic won first set 6-3

Too bad, I’m sorry to tell you that Varillas broke in the first game of the second set. His first serve looks distinctly powder puff. He hits a nice ball as soon as the rallies get going, but he starts every point behind compared to a top player.

2:29 pm

Djokovic 6-3 Varillas* (* indicates next server) – ND wins first set

But the Preuvian underdog can’t do much about this game. Djokovic serves it without much alarm and it’s one to love. Varillas hit some decent shots in the process, but he needs Djokovic not to be at his best, and he’s not. Djokovic also moves well and shoots well. I didn’t see him smirk or bend a knee etc.

Djokovic collected 81% of his first serves, hitting three aces and one double fault.

Varillas only got 58% on the first serve, so that should improve sharply. They have watered the field and the Peruvian now has a chance to serve.

2:21 pm

Djokovic* 5-3 Varillas (* indicates next server)

Varillas serves to stay in the set – and succeeds.

Juan Pablo Varillas serves - YOAN VALAT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Juan Pablo Varillas serves – YOAN VALAT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

2:16 pm

Djokovic 5-2 Varillas* (* indicates next server)

At 15-30, Djokovic changes things up a bit, varying the pace of his shot, getting to the net and winning a point with an attractive drop shot.

Djokovic cuts and Varillas stabilizes himself, using that extra split second, to crack a double-handed backhand down the line. Winner – and another break point for the Peruvian at 30-40.

Some people in the crowd are distracting Djokovic while he serves… It’s windy in Paris and it’s here with Djokovic.

Brilliant from Djokovic at 40-40. He’s on the back foot on every shot from this point, but he’ll never budge. He somehow stays on point, then turns the tables with a perfectly thought-out forehand that hits Varillas back into the net.

Now completes the game with authority.

2:14 pm

Djokovic* 4-2 Varillas (* indicates next server)

Novak Djokovic wins a 22-shot rally and we need a deuce, but Varillas produces an ace, keeps his serve and now has a toe-hold in this first set.

2:05 PM

Djokovic 4-1 Varillas* (* indicates next server)

Possibility. At 30-30, Varillas produces a great grouon hit that kisses the line. Nice backhand, that, and it earns him a breaking point. And he takes it! Fist pump. The Peruvian has started his match.

2:01 PM

Djokovic* 4-0 Varillas (* indicates next server)

Oh dear, that’s another service interruption. Djokovic hits the ball wonderfully.

1:57 PM

Djokovic 3-0 Varillas* (* indicates next server)

Djokovic continues to serve with authority there and Varillas needs something like a miracle or Djokovic to collapse to win here.

1:53 PM

Djokovic* 2-0 Varillas (* indicates next server)

Varillas is immediately in a pickle. It’s 15-40 on his serve. He passes Djokovic cross-court. But at 30-40 an error and a service interruption.

1:48 PM

Novak Djokovic 1-0 Juan Pablo Varillas* (*indicates next server)

Djokovic got to work for that first service sto
p, taken to a deuce. A pair of aces have closed the door.

1:44 PM

The players are on the field

Novak in an orange Lacoste shirt that is more or less the same color as the background. It’s quite confusing that his opponent is wearing the same color!

The men have never played against each other.

It’s Djokovic to serve.

1:39 PM

Varillas quotes

“The last game was tough. He served big.

“This is great for my country. There are not many pro players in Peru and opportunities to become pro.”

1:36 PM

Djokovic on Eurosport

“It is normal to have doubts, no matter how much experience you have. I remind myself to stay in the moment and make the most of it. It’s more challenging than at the beginning of my career. I don’t have an end date in mind, but I think I can still challenge the best players in the world. I don’t know how long it will stay that way.”

Good quotes from him I thought. You might say trivializing yourself.

1:31 PM

Juan Pablo Varillas fact file

Novak Djokovic needs little or no introduction, but the man he plays against in these last 16 matches is less well known.

Juan Pablo Varillas is from Peru and is currently number 94 in the world ranking. The highest number is 76. This week’s efforts represent the pinnacle of his playing career to date.

He came back from two sets down to defeat Shang Juncheng and then defeated 19th seed Roberto Bautista Agut from a similarly desperate position. He defeated 13th seed Hubert Hurkacz in the final round in a five-setter.

So he’s clearly a fighter and he’s going to need every ounce of his heart against the great Serb today.

1:24 PM

So that victory for Pavlyuchenkova

means that Novak Djokovic will be on the track pretty soon.

1:18 PM

Djokovic follows

This match starts after the conclusion of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s clash with Elise Mertens. The Russian is leading as we speak with 5-3 in the last set.

12:59 pm

‘I find that disrespectful’

Good afternoon and welcome to Roland Garros where Novak Djokovic returns to Court Phillipe Chatrier this afternoon under some kind of cloud.

The Serb was less than impressed with the reception he received on track during his third-round victory over Davidovich Fokina, during which he was audibly booed and jeered by the crowd.

“A majority of people come to enjoy tennis or to support one player or another,” Djokovic said after his match, according to ESPN.

“But they are individuals. There are people – there are groups or whatever – who like to berate everything you do. I find that disrespectful and I honestly don’t understand that.

‘But it is their right. They paid for the ticket. They can do whatever they want.”

The whole event was one where Djokovic has been shrouded in controversy after appearing to take a very open stance against Kosovo’s sovereignty after winning his first round match.

This afternoon, the 22-time Grand Slam winner will face Juan Pablo Varillas from Peru. The world No. 94 who defeated 13th seed Hubert Hurkacz in the final round and now faces Djokovic for the first time in his career.

What worries Varillas, as if the confrontation with Djokovic isn’t high enough in itself, is that he’s gone 15 sets on his way to the fourth round. His conditioning will therefore play a big part in deciding whether this match is competitive or not.

For Djokovic, out-of-court affairs have diverted attention from what was a relatively easy start to his French Open bid.

Three wins in straight sets are exactly what he expected at Roland Garros, but there are some rumors that the 2021 champion may not have quite found his best yet.

It now feels like the perfect chance to set a marker for the rest of the tournament.

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