Stepping on court for his first match at a Grand Slam tournament since being disqualified at the US Open in the fourth round, Novak Djokovic was composed, confident and thoroughly concentrated as he cast aside Sweden’s Mikael Ymer, 6-0, 6-2, 6-3, at Roland Garros on Tuesday.

They played this opening round encounter under the roof on a damp and frequently rainy day in Paris and Djokovic was determined to keep his mind uncluttered and his game finely tuned as he clinically took apart his 22-year-old adversary with a masterful display from the backcourt.

Djokovic was particularly impressive across an almost letter-perfect first set. He not only refused to concede a game, but also won 24 of 31 points. He made only one unforced error, released 10 winners, and combined accelerated pace off the ground with a steam of backhand drop-shot winners. The appealing Ymer was understandably overwhelmed by this onslaught from Djokovic, and clearly baffled about how to proceed. His ground game lacked punch. His serve did not have the potency or the location to bother the world No. 1, he seemed to have no game plan whatsoever as Djokovic picked him apart ruthlessly.

The Swede’s inhibition was evident from the outset of this clash. He served two double faults while losing his serve in the first game at 15 before Djokovic held comfortably at 30. From 30-30 in the third game, Ymer made consecutive forehand unforced errors off the forehand. Djokovic was in utter command, holding at love for 4-0 with three consecutive winners—two off the forehand and one with his patented backhand drop shot.

Ymer was simultaneously dazed and frustrated. He was making no inroads. He commenced the fifth game with another double fault and Djokovic surged to 5-0 with a backhand return winner. The Serbian wrapped up that set in 20 efficient minutes with another easy hold.


Djokovic now 60-2 in first round on Grand Slam stage with win in Paris

Djokovic now 60-2 in first round on Grand Slam stage with win in Paris

And yet, almost inevitably, Ymer found his bearings to some degree early in the second set while Djokovic briefly dropped his intensity. The 2016 Roland Garros victor secured an early break but paid the penalty for going to the well too often with the drop shot. He missed one off the backhand to allow Ymer to break back for 2-2.

That was only a minor diversion for the 33-year-old. Djokovic immediately broke at 15 for 3-2. He held at 30 for 4-2 despite a spectacular tweener passing shot from the Swede. The Serb broke again at the cost of only one point with his brutal blend of big hitting with renewed touch and disguise on the backhand drop shot. He promptly held at love to seal the set, 6-2, collecting 16 of 20 points.

The third-set pattern was much the same as the second. Djokovic moved ahead 3-1 before Ymer held on and then gained level ground at 3-3 on a double fault from the Serbian. Djokovic—perhaps somewhat troubled by the controversial heavy balls—was shaking out his arm and his unhappiness was apparent.

But once more he simply went back to work, raised his game, altered his mindset and reasserted his supremacy. He broke at 30 for 4-3 with controlled aggression, taking that game with a winner off his two-hander. In holding at love for 5-3, he released a backhand drop-shot winner, a cross-court winner off the forehand, an ace out wide and an un-returnable second serve heavy kicker.

With Ymer serving to stay in the match in the ninth game and leading 40-30, Djokovic made up his mind that this match was going to end, closing out the contest with three forehand down the line winners in a row. The statistics tell a significant part of the story. Djokovic won 74% of his first serve points while Ymer finished at 42%. Djokovic took 61% of his second serve points as Ymer stood at a lowly 33%. Meanwhile, Djokovic released 32 winners—20 more than Ymer.

Highlights—Djokovic defeats Ymer:


All in all, it was a nearly spotless performance from the world No. 1 as he began his quest to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to capture all four major tennis tournaments at least twice in a career. Djokovic was happy to be back on the Parisian clay where he is competing for the 16th year in a row.

“It’s always a pleasure to return to Paris on Philippe Chatrier—this important court,” Djokovic said. “The atmosphere is a little different this year with few fans, but I remain motivated to win the title.”

Djokovic has made amends after he casually slapped a ball when he had fallen behind Pablo Carreno Busta, 6-5, in the first set of their US Open clash. His intention was to hit that ball into the fence but to his horror, he hit a lineswoman and that was why he was disqualified. Yet the Serbian went to Rome the week before last and admirably claimed the Italian Open crown for the fifth time.

Managing that considerable feat so soon after the shocking circumstances of his US Open departure was no mean feat. It was a striking example of his extraordinary mental toughness. Now in a good state of mind, he is in full pursuit of his 18th Grand Slam singles title. He has been victorious in 32 of 33 matches over the course of the 2020 season, and the feeling grows that this man just might be on a collision course with Rafael Nadal in what would be a blockbuster of a title-round contest in Paris.

“I think I played really well. A few hiccups here and there, but I think generally the game is there," said Djokovic. I'm ready physically, mentally, emotionally to go deep in the tournament. Hopefully I can have another successful year here in Paris.”

Djokovic now 60-2 in first round on Grand Slam stage with win in Paris

Djokovic now 60-2 in first round on Grand Slam stage with win in Paris