x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

French Open: Despair for Novak Djokovic after death of coach

The world No 1 beats Grigor Dimitrov before learning the news his childhood coach Jelena Gencic died earlier in the day.

Novak Djokovic received another personal setback a year after his grandfather died. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
Novak Djokovic received another personal setback a year after his grandfather died. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Novak Djokovic's day at the French Open quickly turned from lightheartedness to grief.

After making up for a recent loss to Grigor Dimitrov by beating him 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the fourth round, the No 1-ranked Djokovic wowed the centre court crowd by addressing them in decent French afterward.

The charm reached its peak when Djokovic pledged to open a Serbian restaurant in Paris one day, drawing a roar of appreciation that could probably be heard all around Roland Garros.

Minutes later, his mood was quite different.

When Djokovic got back to the locker room, his team delivered the news that his first coach, Jelena Gencic, had died earlier on Saturday in Belgrade, Serbia, at the age of 76. She coached him for about five years, starting when Djokovic was six.

It was the second time in a little more than a year that Djokovic has been hit by a personal loss during a tournament.

At the Monte Carlo Masters in April 2012, he learned of his grandfather's death and decided to keep playing, winning his third-round match just hours later. He reached the final there.

On Saturday, word was sent to reporters that Djokovic was too distraught to attend a post-match news conference.

He is scheduled to play his fourth-round match against 16th-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany on Monday, when seven-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal hopes to celebrate his 27th birthday with a win against 13th-seeded Kei Nishikori.

Before that, Sunday's fourth-round men's matches are: 17-time major champion Roger Federer against 15th-seeded Gilles Simon, No 4 David Ferrer against No 23 Kevin Anderson, No 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga against Viktor Troicki, and No 11 Nicolas Almagro against No 32 Tommy Robredo.

The women's match-ups on Sunday to decide quarter-final berths are: 15-time major champion Serena Williams against No 15 Roberta Vinci, 2008 French Open titlist Ana Ivanovic against No 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova against No 8 Angelique Kerber, and 2012 runner-up Sara Errani against No 20 Carla Suarez Navarro.

On Saturday, Nadal overcome another sloppy start to get past 27th-seeded Fabio Fognini of Italy 7-6, 6-4, 6-4.

"I really need to play better," Nadal said. "Otherwise I can go back to Mallorca and go fishing."

Elsewhere on Saturday, 35-year-old Tommy Haas of Germany let a record 12 match points slip in the fourth set, then saved a match point in the fifth en route to eliminating big-serving American John Isner 7-5, 7-6, 4-6, 6-7, 10-8 in four hours, 37 minutes.

Nadal looked like he was going to spend a fair bit of time on court, too.

After dropping the opening set in his first two matches, he trailed 4-2, was down a break at 6-5, and looked mightily relieved to win the tiebreaker, which was even at 4-4.

"I played too short, and with mistakes," Nadal said.

The Spaniard is looking to become the first man to win eight titles at the same grand slam tournament. He improved to 55-1 at Roland Garros despite committing 40 unforced errors and facing 11 break points.


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