Novak Djokovic reached the quarterfinals of the Paris Indoors this morning—and got to within one victory of his 70th match win of the season (he's 69-4)—with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 triumph over compatriot Viktor Troicki. Troicki, the No. 3 Serbian player and the No. 19 in the world, and fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic have now won only one match in 13 contests against Djokovic. That came way back in 2007, when Troicki first played the current No. 1 in Umag, on clay. (It was also their first meeting.)
Just like in the first round of the 2010 U.S. Open, when he led Djokovic two sets to one, Troicki opened up a commanding lead today. The 6'4", 189-pounder from Belgrade commandingly took the first set and then had Djokovic on the ropes in the second, with multiple chances to break serve at 2-all. But Djokovic, who had hit only one ace—and five double-faults—in the first set, fended off his countryman and took the crucial fifth game. Troicki only broke Djokovic three out of 14 times in the match, and only once in his eight chances in the second set.
Just as the court came apart in the last game of the match—the jigsaw-puzzle pieces separating to create a fissure—Troicki became unglued after his failed break chances. He only won a total of two games the rest of the match. At 25, seven months Djokovic's senior, Troicki has seen his ranking drop eight spots since he came into the summer-hard court season ranked a career-high No. 12. Bigger than Djokovic, he nonetheless plays a very similar style (today, both players sported black tennis wear and big crosses around their necks), but he doesn't have the finishing strength or court movement of his peer. At big moments, Troicki's open-stance forehand tends to go awry, as does his composure. In the final game of the match, Troicki abandoned the safety of the backcourt to charge the net off his serve twice, and both times Djokovic fired backhand returns at Troicki's feet, which he netted on the volleys.
Like all great players, Djokovic found a way to win, perhaps struggling at first with his ailing shoulder and then with Troicki's mirror-image game. But by navigating through deep waters, he set up a probable quarterfinal match against the French No. 1, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, which should be a big crowd-pleaser. The last time this duo played a quarterfinal match, at the 2010 Australian Open, Tsonga won in five sets—and the world No. 8 owns a 5-4 match advantage over Djokovic. But the Serb beat Tsonga in their two most recent matches, both in semifinals, at this year's Wimbledon and the Canadian Open.