2017 French Open player profile: Novak Djokovic

Former world number one Novak Djokovic has uncharacteristically struggled in 2017. The Serb turns 30 today, and he has gone through his "shock therapy" period. Djokovic parted ways with his entire coaching team, including longtime coach Marian Vajda. However, Djokovic will be hoping that his fortunes will change at the French Open when Andre Agassi will be his coach on a trial. What both Djokovic and Agassi, have in common is that they won the French Open to complete their Career Grand Slam. It will be interesting to see how that partnership works out, whilst the defending champion has plenty to ponder about ahead of his title defense.

Notable results to date

Coming into 2017, Djokovic was looking to try to defend as many points as possible to keep close to world number one Andy Murray. However, both Djokovic and Murray have struggled for form in 2017 with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, grabbing all of the headlines as being the two in-form players.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion got off to a good start to the year by retaining his Qatar ExxonMobil Open title at the ATP 250 level event in Doha. The Serb saved multiple match points in his semifinal clash with Fernando Verdasco, and he defeated Murray in a three-set thriller in the final. Once the Australian Open came round, the six-time champion suffered a shocking five-set loss to Denis Istomin. Djokovic would compete in Acapulco, losing to Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals. The young Aussie recorded a second consecutive victory over Djokovic in Indian Wells. He became the first man since Juan Martin del Potro in 2013 to defeat the Serb at the BNP Paribas Open. Djokovic's reign as the three-time defending champion came to a halt. He was unable to defend his title in Miami due to an elbow injury.

The Serb was unable to turn it around against Denis Istomin in Melbourne (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty)
The Serb was unable to turn it around against Denis Istomin in Melbourne (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty)

Clay Court results leading up to Roland Garros

The two-time Monte Carlo Masters champion began his clay court campaign in the principality. However, the former world number one struggled in the three matches, that he participated in. He overcame Gilles Simon, the player, who he committed 100 unforced errors against at the Australian Open last year. Djokovic defeated the Frenchman, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. In the third round, the Serb was up against, the in-form Pablo Carreno Busta. Again, the world number two was pushed to the brink of defeat by the young Spaniard. However, Djokovic survived Carreno Busta, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Unfortunately, the two-time champion was unable to dig himself out of a hole against David Goffin. Last year's French Open quarterfinalist dispatched Djokovic for the first time, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.

The Serb returned to the Caja Magica at the Mutua Madrid Open as the defending champion. Djokovic was once again, under the cosh against veteran Nicolas Almagro. Nevertheless, the two-time Mutua Madrid Open champion survived another test, edging past Almagro, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5. The former world number one recorded his first straight sets victory since defeating Kyle Edmund in Indian Wells against Feliciano Lopez in the third round. However, he had a bye to the semifinals, as Kei Nishikori withdrew due to a wrist injury. Djokovic's seven-match winning streak against Rafael Nadal came to an end in the semifinals. The Spaniard was too hot to handle, but we saw glimpses of Djokovic's best tennis in the second set. Nevertheless, it wasn't enough as Nadal defeated Djokovic for the first time since the 2014 French Open final, 6-2, 6-4.

Djokovic (left) was unable to win a fifth title at the Foro Italico after losing to Alexander Zverev (Photo by Gareth Copley / Getty)
Djokovic (left) was unable to win a fifth title at the Foro Italico after losing to Alexander Zverev (Photo by Gareth Copley / Getty)

The four-time Internazionali BNL d'Italia champion returned to the Foro Italico looking for a record 31st Masters 1000 title. Djokovic's impressive form continued into the Eternal City. He emphatically dispatched Aljaz Bedene, Roberto Bautista Agut, Juan Martin del Potro and Dominic Thiem to reach his eighth final in the Italian capital. However, he was unable to add another title to his cabinet as 20-year-old Alexander Zverev became the first player since Djokovic, who won the Miami Open in 2007 to win a Masters 1000 title as a young teen.

Best French Open result

Djokovic finally claimed the French Open title last year, after losing in three previous finals. The Serb entered the tournament as the top seed, and he finally seized on the opportunity to complete his Career Grand Slam.

The former world number one eased past Yen-Hsun Lu, Steve Darcis, and Aljaz Bedene, advancing to the second week without dropping a solitary set. However, the Serb had to recover from a set down to defeat 14th seed Roberto Bautista Agut, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 to sail into his tenth quarterfinal in Paris. Djokovic dispatched Tomas Berdych and Dominic Thiem to reach his fourth final in Paris. Djokovic finally won the French Open after recovering from a set down to defeat Murray, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

The Serb was unable to win four consecutive Grand Slams after losing to Nadal in his first French Open final in 2012 (Photo by Mike Hewitt / Getty)
The Serb was unable to win four consecutive Grand Slams after losing to Nadal in his first French Open final in 2012 (Photo by Mike Hewitt / Getty)

Djokovic advanced to his first final at the French Open in 2012, after defeating Potito Starace, Blaz Kavcic and Nicolas Devilder in the first three rounds without conceding a set. However, the Serb had to come back from two sets to love down to defeat 22nd seed, Andreas Seppi. He also had to come back from two sets to one down in order to dispatch Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals. The former world number one dispatched 2009 champion Roger Federer in the semifinals in straight sets. However, Djokovic was unable to become the first man since Rod Laver to complete the non-Calendar year Grand Slam. Nadal defeated Djokovic, 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 to win his third straight French Open title.

The Serb lost to Nadal in the semifinals in 2013, and in 2014, he reached his second final in Paris. He won his first two matches in straight sets but he needed four sets to defeat Marin Cilic in the third round. He thrashed Tsonga, 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, Djokovic survived the barrage of Milos Raonic to reach the semifinals. He needed four sets to defeat first-time Slam semifinalist Ernests Gulbis in four sets. Once again, Nadal needed four sets to defeat Djokovic, denying the Serb the chance to complete the Career Grand Slam.

A dejected Djokovic fell short to Nadal once more in Paris in 2014 (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty)
A dejected Djokovic fell short to Nadal once more in Paris in 2014 (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty)

For the third time, Djokovic was the runner-up at the French Open in 2015. He did not drop a set in his first five matches at Roland Garros. He thrashed Jarrko Nieminen, Gilles Muller, Thanasi Kokkanakis and Richard Gasquet to reach the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, he became the second man to defeat Nadal at the French Open after Robin Soderling, defeated Nadal in the fourth round in 2009. Djokovic halted Nadal's reign as the five-time defending champion, and he was installed as the new favorite. He was cruising in his semifinal encounter with Andy Murray but the Brit fought back to force a deciding set. However, Djokovic won the match, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 5-7, 6-1. Despite winning the first set, the Serb was pummelled by Stan Wawrinka in the final. The Swiss star defeated Djokovic, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. The Serb was in tears but the crowd was cheering for him during the trophy presentation. The 30-year-old didn't have to wait too long for his moment at Roland Garros.

Djokovic finally embraced the crowd at the French Open in 2015 (Photo by Dan Istitene / Getty)
Djokovic finally embraced the crowd at the French Open in 2015 (Photo by Dan Istitene / Getty)

How Djokovic's game translates to this surface

The reigning French Open champion is solid on all three surfaces. However, clay is perfect for Djokovic's defense as the Serb is the best tennis player at sliding on this surface. The former world number one even slides on hard and grass courts, and he is extremely tough to beat over a best of five sets match on clay. Djokovic hasn't been at his best in 2017 but he is slowly but surely getting there.

Djokovic's serve is a good weapon, and his one-two combination is a good tool to use. The Serb's forehands and backhands work well on clay, and as he gets more time on clay, it will work to his advantage. Everyone is talking about Nadal claiming La Decima at Roland Garros but do not count out, the reigning champion of winning a second title in the French capital.

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