Defending French Open champion Novak Djokovic sets out to retain his crown when he serves his first ball of Roland-Garros this year against Yoshihito Nishioka on Monday at 7.45pm (UK time).
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Only one name springs to mind when we think Roland-Garros: 13-time record winner Rafael Nadal. But, the Spanish clay master was knocked out in the penultimate round to Novak Djokovic last year, who ultimately went on to win the tournament, and now he sets out to become the first tennis player to win successive titles whose name isn’t Nadal since Gustavo Kuerten at the turn of the century.
Indeed the No. 1 seed is also seeking to level up with Nadal in the all-time charts for major honours. As things stand, Nadal has won the most grand slams in men’s tennis with 21 tournament gongs. Djokovic is currently tied with Swiss immortal Roger Federer on 20 career trophies. The narrative in Paris will certainly be dominated by those two: Nadal, the record winner vs Djokovic, the reigning champion.
Of course, sport has the capacity to deviate from script and nothing is ever set in stone. For Djokovic to even contemplate winning a third French Open of his career, the 35-year-old must first bypass 99th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka, with the 26-year-old Japanese never making it further than the Second Round at Roland-Garros. He has a seismic challenge when he takes to Court Philippe-Chatrier on Monday evening.
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