More fear than harm for Novak Djokovic. Led and shaken as rarely by the surprising Tallon Griekspoor, the world number one won in three tight sets 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals of the Masters 1000 of Paris-Bercy Thursday.
But it was complicated for the Serb, outgoing finalist and six-time winner of the tournament, who showed up on the court, visibly ill. In the first set, "Nole", diligent, started by leading 4-1, before strangely collapsing and letting his opponent win five consecutive games to take the first round to everyone's surprise (6- 4). He sat on his bench, livid, and even called the doctor to some boos from the Parisian public.
But his opponent, aggressive in return, particularly well inspired on his serve, chained together the winning shots (16 in the first set, 18 in the second), to the great despair of the world No.1 whose head was seen several times low. Heckled, he had to work to keep away three break points in the second set, including two at 4-4 and 15-40 on his put in. He recovered after a decisive game which he overcame 7/2 facing a slightly less calm opponent.
In the third set, Djokovic seemed angry on numerous occasions, however managing to break at 2-2, but was almost unbroken in the process after another double fault (the 7th of the match). He even insulted the Bercy public - once again very dissipated -, showing himself to be quite annoyed to see the 15,000 spectators applauding this turnaround.
But the winner of 24 Grand Slam tournaments immediately took over the Dutchman's challenge, on a white break, and concluded his first match point on his serve to win 6-4, after 2 hours 39 minutes of play.
“Congratulations to him for his match, he deserved his victory more than me today,” he said on court after his qualification. “I started well but felt very bad afterwards, maybe a stomach virus caught in the last two or three days, but that's life. You have to find solutions and I did it this evening,” he added.
Djokovic is the last representative of the world's top 4, after the surprise eliminations of Carlos Alcaraz (2nd) and Daniil Medvedev (3rd), and the withdrawal of Jannik Sinner (4th) before his round of 16. He could find the Dane Holger Rune (7th) in the quarter-final, who beat him in the final last year, if he manages on Thursday evening to avoid the trap of the German Daniel Altmaier (54th).
In the Parisian venue, Djokovic is playing his first tournament after a month and a half break after the 24th Grand Slam trophy won at the US Open in September, in the process equaling the absolute record of the Australian Margaret Court. After his triumph in New York, he made a victorious appearance in the Davis Cup in Spain, in Valencia.