By Ros Satar
(June 3, 2013) PARIS – World No. 1 Novak Djokovic dropped his first set of the tournament against Philipp Kohlschreiber, but rallied impressively to win in four sets 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on Monday at Roland Garros.
Djokovic has had a couple of difficult days, since learning of the death of one of his earliest coaches, Jelena Gencic after his straight sets win over Grigor Dimitrov.
His team had kept the news from him, and once told, he was too distraught to do his post match news conference.
His early demeanor in the first set suggested he was still a little distracted by the news, getting bothered by calls, with labored movement and giving his racquet a bit of a clobbering.
Kohlschreiber took advantage of Djokovic’s flatness , taking the first set.
By the second set, the Serb looked a little more dialed in to the match, breaking the German to lead 3-1, before having to save four break points to consolidate, and stay ahead to level the score.
Kohlschreiber’s frustration mounted in the third as another early break kept the world no. 1 just ahead to lead by two sets to one.
There was some comfort, after suffering two more breaks in the fourth set, Kohlschreiber did manage to save a match point, and converted his third break point as Djokovic was serving for the match.
The Serb let one match point slip at his second attempt, but a backhand, cross-court winner put him a quarter-final berth, to face Tommy Haas.
He acknowledged that Kohlschreiber had been quick to exploit his own slow start, and has had some big upsets in his career on a bigger stage.
He said: “In the start he was more aggressive. I was, you know, still trying to find the rhythm on the court.”
“I needed to earn my victory, and in the end it was good. You know, I’m really glad to get through, because he’s a good quality opponent.”
Of course, it was inevitable in his post-match conference that he would be asked about the passing on of his early coach Jelena Gencic.
He spoke with an eloquence and maturity, making an assertion that he now felt a need to continue her legacy.
He said: “I feel the responsibility also to continue on doing that in the future to, you know, because she worked with kids between 5 and 6 years to 12, 13 years old, and she was dedicating all her life to that generation and to tennis.”
“She knew exactly to recognize the potential of the tennis players.
“That’s why she, for me, is the best coach for that young generation that I ever met in my life.”
Djokovic was visibly moved last year, after learning of the death of his grandfather while competing in Monte Carlo, and he felt that experience had helped him better handle the news of the loss.
He also believed that his team had made the right decision not to tell him of the news until after his last match was over.
“I know that her spirit will be always with me and always on the tennis court, because this is what she always loved to do.
“It’s her favorite place in the world, and I’ll make sure that her legacy continues.”
Djokovic faces Tommy Haas, in the quarterfinal.