Saturday May 28th, 2011

Six thoughts on Novak Djokovic's 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Juan Martin del Potro in Saturday's third round of the French Open ...

1. No break for Del Potro. It was widely assumed that Del Potro got an edge Friday night when the match was postponed by darkness at the conclusion of the second set. Del Potro nearly stayed home in Argentina due to a hip injury, and he figured to benefit by playing only three sets (maximum). No such luck. Djokovic's mastery was so comprehensive, Del Potro never got into the match.

2. Djokovic dominance on display. In the absence of high drama, fans were treated once again to Djokovic's astounding movement and footwork. Watch most players when they try to retrieve a deep shot to their backhand on the run; the response usually amounts to "let me just get this thing in." Djokovic has an amazing knack of ripping the ball back with authority, immediately turning the point in his favor.

3. Del Potro's undoing. Before the match, Jim Courier warned, "If you're going to beat Djokovic right now, you have to be able to overpower him, and there are just very, very few people who can actually do that." Del Potro engaged Djokovic in some spirited rallies, but he missed too many routine groundstrokes to keep it close. And a rare Del Potro double-fault -- handing Djokovic a service break for 2-1 in the second set -- really cost him.

4. Glimpses of Del Potro's best. There were very few reminders of Del Potro's "A" game, the type of virtuosity that got him past Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to win the 2009 U.S. Open. But the heart is there. Djokovic hit a fabulous, unreturnable backhand drop shot during the aforementioned service break, Del Potro unable to answer from his position well behind the baseline. But when Djokovic tried that same shot in the sixth game -- at a time when everyone in the stadium felt the match was essentially over -- Del Potro saw it coming, raced to the scene and flicked a remarkable cross-court winner.

5. A French mishap. Although there were no serious regrets on any count, this match should not have unfolded in two parts. In a ridiculous bit of scheduling, officials put Djokovic-Del Potro fourth on Court Philippe Chatrier stadium Friday, forcing them to wait out a five-set marathon between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Stanislas Wawrinka and eventually get moved to Court Suzanne Lenglen (where the match resumed on Saturday). Tsonga may be French, but there's no way he deserves a more favorable time slot than a match everyone in tennis wants to see. "Very messy scheduling," said Martina Navratilova, who, interestingly, was given this Tennis Channel assignment alongside Ian Eagle. "There's no way you put a feature match like that on last. Tsonga and Wawrinka should be the ones having to move."

6. Get ready for Djokovic-Federer. We have probably reached the stage where French players collapse under the weight of home-country expectations. Expect Djokovic to get past Richard Gasquet in the next round, and Gael Monfils isn't likely to survive a sector that includes Roger Federer, who has looked extremely sharp so far. A Djokovic-Federer semifinal seems likely.

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