Novak Djokovic admitted he is fuelled by drama as the fall-out continued from his controversial message about Kosovo.
The French sports minister weighed into the debate on Wednesday over Djokovic’s decision to write “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia” on the camera after his first-round victory at Roland Garros.
Speaking to TV station France 2, Amelie Oudea-Castera said the message amid violence in the north of the country, which is not recognised as independent by Serbia, was not appropriate and she warned Djokovic not to repeat the action.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) May 31, 2023
He told Serbian media he would do it again but, after beating Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (2) 6-0 6-3 in the second round, he opted just for a signature and smiley face.
At his post-match press conference, Djokovic said: “I would say it again, but I don’t need to because you have my quotes if you want to reflect on that.
“Of course I’m aware that a lot of people would disagree, but it is what it is. It’s something that I stand for. So that’s all. Drama-free grand slam, I don’t think it can happen for me. I guess that drives me, as well.”
He declined to respond to Oudea-Castera’s comments and did not confirm whether tournament director Amelie Mauresmo had discussed the matter with him, saying: “I have no more comment on that. I said what I needed to say.”
He is not expected to face any sanction from the tournament because players are not prohibited from making political statements.
Things were not straightforward on the court during an 87-minute first set when, unsettled by breezy conditions and an in-form opponent, Djokovic was pushed hard.
He double-faulted serving for the set and was pushed to a tie-break but, having overcome that hurdle, the third seed was almost flawless.
A lost set, meanwhile, was not enough to take the smile off Carlos Alcaraz’s face as he defeated Taro Daniel to move through to the third round of the French Open.
Taking on the Japanese player on a windy Philippe Chatrier, world number one Alcaraz won the first set easily only for his opponent to fight back at the start of the second.
— Carlos Alcaraz (@carlosalcaraz) May 31, 2023
It proved only a temporary blip, though, as the young Spaniard dominated the final two sets in a 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-2 triumph.
“I’m really happy with the level that I played today,” said Alcaraz. “I overcame the problems in the match because of the wind and it has been a really complete match from my side, and I’m really happy with that.”
Alcaraz’s positive attitude and sunny disposition has made him not just popular with his rivals but also made some of them rethink their own approach, with Stefanos Tsitsipas thanking the Spaniard during a practice session.
“I’m winning all the time because I am smiling,” said Alcaraz, who next faces Denis Shapovalov. “And I always said that smiling for me is the key of everything.
“I enjoy being in this kind of stadium, these kind of tournaments, cities. That’s the most important thing for me to enjoy, and that’s why I smile all the time.”
Tsitsipas joined Alcaraz in the third round with a 6-3 7-6 (4) 6-2 victory over Roberto Carballes Baena but former champion Stan Wawrinka lost out in the match of the day, going down in five sets to Thanasi Kokkinakis.
The Australian would have felt that was justice after his epic defeat by Andy Murray at his home grand slam in January.
Going to bed, I don’t want to wake up and see Kokki lose another thriller please ☹️
— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) May 31, 2023
“It definitely feels better when you come out on the winning end of those,” said Kokkinakis.
“I had a heart-breaker against Andy earlier in the year and not many moral victories. It was a tough one to take. You can’t count these guys out no matter how old they are. They get better and better, and you can see why they are multiple grand slam champions.
“Stan is a legend. Still is, obviously, but he was a legend out on court today. He was very nice, very respectful. Hats off to him. The crowd was going nuts for him, but it’s a fun atmosphere. I love playing against that, so it was awesome.”
Meanwhile, sixth seed Holger Rune was given free passage through to the third round after Gael Monfils called a press conference late on Wednesday evening to announce he was pulling out of their clash scheduled for the night session on Thursday because of a wrist injury.
The 36-year-old played the match of the tournament so far on Tuesday night, fighting off cramp to defeat Sebastian Baez in five sets, and he said: “I’m not really sure what I feel, but it’s more than being disappointed. How many Roland Garroses will I play?”