French Open 2024: Novak Djokovic begins Roland Garros with the victory of Pierre-Hugues Herbert

Image source, fake images

Screenshot, Novak Djokovic aims for a fourth French Open title

  • Author, Jonathan Jurejko
  • Role, BBC Sport journalist at Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic began his French Open title defense with a solid, if not spectacular, victory over local hope Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

The 37-year-old Serbian Djokovic raised his level when necessary to win 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) and 6-4 in Tuesday’s night session at Roland Garros.

The 24-time Grand Slam champion will take the record for most major titles with a fourth victory on the Paris clay.

But he arrived at the event in an uncertain way.

Djokovic has endured a turbulent season, having fallen far short of his heights and yet to reach a final.

Playing in Geneva last week was a sign that he wanted to gain pace and confidence before heading to the French Open, and when he arrived he said he had “low expectations but high hopes.”

Therefore, it was intriguing to see how Djokovic would look against 142nd-ranked wild card Herbert.

Djokovic’s movement on the baseline did not always look comfortable and he lacked some sharpness in his serve.

However, he generally returned well and was still able to choose his moments to attack, especially in an imposing tiebreaker.

This year, Djokovic appears to lack some of the fire that has often fueled his success, but his demonstrative celebrations when he took a two-set lead indicated his delight.

Chances were few and far between in the third set before he put the pressure back on in what turned out to be the final game.

An impressive winner in two earned a first match point and Herbert blinked to deliver it with a double fault.

“I’m glad I started the way I started, how I felt on the court,” said Djokovic, who plays Spanish world No. 63 Roberto Carball├ęs Baena in the second round.

“Compared to the previous weeks of tournaments I played (recently), I felt good, better. I’m moving in a positive direction.”

Herbert has already obtained the ‘biggest victory of 2024’

Whatever happened in the match against Djokovic, Herbert had already seen his “biggest win of 2024.”

Herbert’s young son, Leandre, underwent 10-hour pancreas surgery in April after being diagnosed with congenital hyperinsulinism, a genetic disorder that causes abnormally high levels of insulin.

Shortly afterwards, Herbert revealed the ordeal his family had been through and said Leandre was “cured”.

The family’s story has struck a chord with the tennis community and may have given the 33-year-old an extra layer of support against Djokovic.

Parisian fans are always fervently supportive of their home players, but were encouraged to see Herbert hold Djokovic on serve for most of the second and third sets.

The way he delivered the victory was cruel. Sympathetic groans were quickly drowned out by a loud cheer as she disappeared back to the locker room.