Erratic Djokovic inspired by Agassi's early arrival
Andre Agassi rode to the rescue at the French Open yesterday as his new client, Novak Djokovic, struggled in drizzly conditions on Court Philippe Chatrier.
A set down against Diego Schwartzman, Djokovic looked to the big screen, saw Agassi taking his seat, and promptly secured a critical break of serve.
"He was not supposed to be here today," explained Djokovic. "He managed to reschedule things and show up, which was not planned. I respect that very much [and] of course I liked seeing him in the box. He is showing his commitment [and] having him around always gives you more inspiration."
In conditions he later described as "very muddy, very slow, no bounce", Djokovic found it difficult to hit through Schwartzman's consistent groundstrokes. But with Agassi applauding his every winner, he rode out the storm to win in five sets: 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.
Not that it was all plain sailing. Djokovic's composure was disturbed in the fourth set by chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Having been docked a first serve because of slow play he was then warned for unsportsmanlike conduct, apparently because he had made a gesture as if to strike the ball in Ramos's direction. Djokovic immediately stalked up to the chair, holding out his hands in imprecation. "What did I say?" he demanded. "Why did you give me a warning? Did I hit the ball in your direction? Did I hit it? No? So, why did you give me a warning? You're losing your mind."
Djokovic did not address this afterwards, but he did confirm the surprising detail that there is no money changing hands between himself and Agassi. "I'm just trying to enjoy every possible moment that I have next to him when he's here with me," said Djokovic. "When he's not here we are in daily contact, calling each other, texting and so forth. He's going to try his best to be in the biggest tournaments with me, as much as family time allows."
If Djokovic had to battle for three hours and 19 minutes, the previous match on Centre Court had lasted only 90 minutes as Rafael Nadal dominated Nikoloz Basilashvili. "He's a much, much better player than I am, obviously," said Basilashvili after a chastening 6-0, 6-1, 6-0 defeat. Andy Murray faces former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro today. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
French Open, live, ITV4 / eir Sport 1 / Eurosport, from 9.30