Novak Djokovic won his race against the clock, performing in a “night show” as he beat Briton Aljaz Bedene 6-2 6-3 6-3 to reach the French Open last 16 on Saturday.
After rain cut two-and-a-half hours from the day at Roland Garros, the world number one did not even get on court until 7:25pm local time and had a small window of opportunity to ensure he got a day off on Sunday.
Hurrying the ball boys between points, Djokovic, aiming to win the only grand slam title missing from his collection, struck the ball with aggression throughout but Slovenian-born Bedene was in no mood to oblige and capitulate.
Djokovic even dropped serve in the third set but wrapped up the match on his first match point to set up a meeting with Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, the 14th seed. “I played very well, 6-2, 5-1, 30-Love, and a couple of long games where I didn’t use my opportunities. But I closed out two sets pretty well. Started the third great,” Djokovic, beaten in the final last year, told a news conference.
“Then the night show started, you know. I dropped my serve, the games were very long, (umpire) Pascal (Maria) was on fire. “He was coming down from his chair. Yeah, and we went deep into night. I think we played to the maximum extent of time.” At the end of the match, Djokovic invited Frenchman Maria to come off his chair and do the post-match interview with him. “He says he can’t do it but I take full responsibility,” Djokovic said in front of an amused crowd.
With rain forecast for Monday, Djokovic was well aware that a drawn-out match could complicate his schedule and he said it was about time Roland Garros modernised. “It was getting dark. I just hope that, you know, soon that Roland Garros will at least have lights, at least on the centre court and Suzanne Lenglen,” he said.
“For a grand slam you need to have lights. I’m really hoping we can have that very soon for these particular situations, especially considering the fact that forecast for weather is not that great in the following days.”
The French Open is the only grand slam with no roof over the main show court, even though tournament director Guy Forget said earlier this week Chatrier would have one by 2020. “It’s not good for anybody, waiting the whole day for players, for fans, for tournament organisers,” said Djokovic.