French Open 2016: Djokovic beats Bedene and the light to reach the fourth round

The Serb didn't start his match until 7:15pm local time but managed to progress in straight sets on the night.

French Open 2016: Djokovic beats Bedene and the light to reach the fourth round
The world number one progressed to the fourth round with ease. (Photo: The Telegraph)

Novak Djokovic is on a mission, the same missions that he’s seemingly on every year. To win the French Open and complete the career Grand Slam.

As expected, he has reached the second week with minimum fuss and remains the favourite to win the title in a week’s time.

The odds for the Serb to lift the illustrious Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy slashed dramatically after potential semi-final opponent, and nine time champion, Rafael Nadal was forced to withdraw from the tournament with a wrist injury yesterday.

With Andy Murray and last year’s conqueror Stanislas Wawrinka placed in the opposite half of the draw, the opportunity couldn’t appear more favourable for Djokovic who could finally complete his decorated trophy cabinet in seven days’ time.

In the end, his biggest challenge against Britain's Aljaz Bedene was to beat the clock and the fading light, after a downpour in Paris caused play to be delayed.

The match, which changed court location twice before it was moved back to Philippe Chatrier, didn’t start until 7:15pm local time, meaning that there was a race against time to stop it being held over and completed tomorrow.

Fully aware of the situation, Djokovic spent little time securing a 6-2 6-3 6-3 victory and will now face Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth round.

Bedene, who was granted UK citizenship last year - but has not been allowed to play for the Davis Cup team because he represented Slovenia earlier in his career, can still consider it a good tournament after reaching the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time.

Fast start from the world number one

It was a difficult start for Bedene, who was playing on the Philippe Chatrier court for the first time in his career, as the Brit was broken in his opening service game.

Even so, the pair were regularly caught up in some extended rallies, and both produced some fine ball striking from the back of the court to spark up the decibel level around Roland Garros’ main arena.

Bedene finally shifted his side of the score board in the fourth game, before digging into a Djokovic service game to create two break points - however the ominous Serb calmly stubbed them out.

Djokovic was called up for a time violation by umpire Pascal Maria in the seventh game when serving at 4-2, but that’s as far as the punishment went.

After holding serve moments later, the world number one went on to win the set in the very next game - as the Serb quickly pressed his foot onto the accelerator.

Bedene creates chances

A 15-40 opportunity passed Bedene by in the opening game of the second set, but before he had time to feel sorry for himself Djokovic was soon serving for a two set lead.

The British number two admitted before the match that he had employed a strength and conditioning coach to help him prepare for grand slam competitions.

In the opening round it appeared to have paid dividends, when Bedene overcame Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in five sets.

Even so Djokovic is - by far - a different proposition,and the Serb’s superior speed and agility made it difficult for his opponent to apply any sort of score board pressure.

With that in mind the world number one was able to relax to a certain degree, and continuously opened up inviting spaces on Bedene’s side of the court before pounding a winner into the created gap. 

Despite losing serve for the first time in the match when serving for the second set at 5-2, Djokovic was able to double his advantage a couple of games later.

A problem with his eye for Bedene was nothing compared to the problems his opponent gave him on Saturday evening. (Photo: BBC)
A problem with his eye for Bedene was nothing compared to the problems his opponent gave him on Saturday evening. (Photo: BBC)

Djokovic wins race against time

The only question then was whether the Serb could get the job done before the fading light stopped play in the French capital.

His hopes of reaching the fourth round before tomorrow were helped when he broke Bedene in the first game of the third with a trademark backhand return.

After breaking serve at the start of the third, Djokovic was broken back to begin a tight race against time against the fading light.

However the Serb didn't hang around and quickly wrapped up the victory in under two hours, as he progressed to the last 16.