NOVAK Djokovic hopes his extra grand slam experience will give him the edge when he attempts to take revenge on Grigor Dimitrov tomorrow in the third round of the French Open.
The pair set up the much-anticipated meeting with comfortable victories yesterday, with Djokovic losing just four games in a 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 win over Guido Pella, while Dimitrov saw off French teenager Lucas Pouille.
Dimitrov is one of the sport’s brightest young talents so it would be an exciting match-up anyway, but it has been given an extra edge by the Bulgarian’s win over Djokovic in Madrid earlier this month.
Djokovic said: “He definitely played great there. I think he got more confident as he was getting big wins in the last few months, and so he’s a tough player now to beat now, definitely. And, even though maybe his style of the game could be better on the hard court or faster surfaces, he’s showing that he can play equally well on clay.
“He pushed Nadal to a tough three sets in Monaco. He beat me in Madrid. It’s going to be a tough one for both of us. I need to be on top of my game.
“But here it’s best of five. It’s going to be very physical and all the hard work that I put into preparations for this tournament hopefully will play to my advantage and will pay off on the court.”
For all Dimitrov’s talent – he has long had to deal with the tag of the new Roger Federer because of his attractive game style – this is the first time he has reached the third round at a grand slam. Djokovic, meanwhile, is going for his seventh slam title and has reached the final in five of the past six tournaments.
The Serb expects 22-year-old Dimitrov, seeded 26th here, to make it to the top but has warned him that the next step is all about hard work.
Djokovic said: “He’s still young and he has definitely the potential to be one of the top players, but it’s a very long way for him. A few tournaments don’t change much.
“Of course it can help him mentally because he’s got shots, he’s got talent, he’s built well and he moves well around the court.
“Now it’s all about hard work, dedication to the sport and trying to be consistently successful on all the surfaces in order to be a top five, top 10 player, because this is the only way you can actually reach the level that it is right now.
“It’s very competitive. It’s much more competitive and I think more difficult for the younger players to make a breakthrough than six, seven, eight years ago when I was coming up.”
Dimitrov has vowed to enjoy the experience, saying: “It’s a great feeling, obviously. I’m going to smile coming out on the court. That’s the one thing. Smiling won’t win the match.
“It’s the third round, it will definitely be on a big court. The most important thing is just to go out there and try to enjoy the game. And at the same time, I’m really looking forward to playing at my best. And you never know what’s going to happen.”
He added: “I’m going to take a bit of rest because it’s played over the best of five sets. It’s always nice to play the number one in the world. I’m just going to get ready, it’s just the third round of the tournament.”
Rain was persistent on a miserable day in Paris, and seven-time champion Rafael Nadal only got as far as the warm-up against Martin Klizan before they were forced from the court and cancelled for the day.
Meanwhile, the prospect of a third-round meeting between Nadal and Lukas Rosol, the man who so stunningly beat him at Wimbledon last year, is no more after the Czech was beaten by 27th seed Fabio Fognini.