Djokovic cruises past Struff; becomes first man to reach 10 straight RG quarter-finals.

How quaint it now feels to recall the Novak Djokovic of 12 months ago, by comparison with the up-to-date version. It is inconceivable to relate the bewildered player of last year with the frighteningly invulnerable world No.1 who has swatted aside all-comers at Roland-Garros 2019.

Having haemorrhaged a mere eight games in each of his three rounds to date, Djokovic was theoretically facing a challenging hurdle in the last 16 in the form of Jan-Lennard Struff, who strode on to Court Philippe-Chatrier bearing an impressive list of clay scalps this season. Ninety-three humbling minutes later he exited as Djokovic’s cheapest victory here to date.

The Serbian crushed him 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, not only extended his match-winning streak at Grand Slams to 25, but also recording a new chapter of Roland-Garros history – Djokovic is the first man to ever to reach 10 consecutive quarter-finals on the Paris clay. Of course, his ambitions this fortnight don’t stop there, but every new mark is one to be relished, especially when it is achieved with such apparent ease.

“I don’t mind cruising along, to be honest,” smiled Djokovic. “It’s also good to cruise along and kind of conserve the energy for what’s coming up. But everything is coming together beautifully.”

Beautifully from all but Struff’s perspective, that is. At 3-4 on serve in the opening set, the German probably thought the match was going quite well. But then Djokovic eased rapidly through a whole series of gears unavailable to the world No.45, and pillaged 12 of the last 14 points of the set.

“Everything is coming together beautifully.”

In the second stanza, the statistics were the kind few could survive: Djokovic permitted himself a solitary pair of errors to take his unforced count at that stage to five, while Struff amassed a total of two points on the Serbian’s serve. By the time Djokovic faced his first break point of the match, he was up 5-3 in the third. As matters stand, the 15-time Grand Slam champion’s serve is all but impregnable – over the four rounds played to date, he has won a tournament-leading 84% of points on his first serve.

“The match turned around in one game,” reported Djokovic. “I started reading his serve better, got a break in the first game of second set, and that obviously gave me wings. It didn’t seem like he was playing confidently after that. He struggled a lot to connect his game. He tried, but I thought I probably elevated my game for another level or two, and played perfect second and third set.”

Of course nobody lifts the Coupe des Mousquetaires on the basis of making the last 16. But brick by mental brick with each of his ever-more impressive victories, Djokovic is equipping himself with the strongest possible mindset in his quest to become first man in the Open Era to hold all four Grand Slams twice.

“I am satisfied so far with my game so far,” he allowed cautiously. “I have reached the quarter-finals and played as close to my best tennis on clay as I think I can at the moment. I’m really pleased with every aspect of my game. I’m motivated to fight for the trophy, yes. That’s why I’m here.

“But it’s still a long way to go.”

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