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Novak Djokovic struggled through his third match at the French Open but prevailed in five sets.

By Jon Wertheim
June 02, 2017

Novak Djokovic, the defending champ, is still in the tournament. But barely. Playing multiple standard deviations off his 2016 form, Djokovic struggled throughout his third match and needed to rally from a two-sets-to-one deficit to beat the diminutive Argentine, Diego Schwartzman, 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1. Djokovic looked tentative. Djokovic looked vulnerable. Djokovic looked temperamental, arguing with chair umpire Carlos Ramos on multiple changeovers. But in the end, he delivered enough body blows to subdue his opponent.

Some of you ask why the stars prefer best-of-five to best-of-three sets. Today we got a demonstration. Playing a five-setter spanning almost three hours and 30 minutes—especially when your rival preceding you on the court and dropped one game—isn’t the ideal way for a defending champion to advance through midweek encounter from a much lower ranked opponent. But it beats the alternative.

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