Records are good but now it's about the next step, says Djokovic

Djokovic's main focus has been to win a men's record 23rd Grand Slam title next weekend in Paris

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Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a backhand return to Peru's Juan Pablo Varillas. — AFP
Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a backhand return to Peru's Juan Pablo Varillas. — AFP

By Reuters

Published: Sun 4 Jun 2023, 10:05 PM

Novak Djokovic took one French Open record away from 14-time champion Rafael Nadal on Sunday when he became the first player to reach the Roland Garros quarter-finals for a 17th time — but the Serb will not let that milestone distract him from the job at hand.

Djokovic's main focus has been to win a men's record 23rd Grand Slam title next weekend and he moved closer to that goal by crushing Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas 6-3 6-2 6-2 to set up a last eight showdown with 11th seed Karen Khachanov.

"Well, I'm proud of it (the record of quarterfinals), but my attention is already in the next match," Djokovic said. "I mean, obviously quarter-finals, Khachanov, I know what my goal is here.

"I'm trying to stay mentally the course and of course not look too far."

Djokovic is tied with Spain's Nadal, who has triumphed an incredible 14 times at the claycourt major, on 22 Grand Slam titles.


Nadal, who did not compete in Paris due to an injury, underwent surgery this week and is out for the rest of the year.

"Obviously the performance of today gives me a great deal of confidence about how I felt, about how I played. So I'm looking forward to the next match," Djokovic said.

"Of course you're looking, you're analysing everyone's game. You're basically following what's going on in the draw."

"But most of the attention is obviously focused on you, on what you need to deliver on the court, how you need to perform, how you need to win the next match. It's only about the next step."

Djokovic has looked fit in his quest for a third title in Paris despite pulling out of the Madrid Open in April and needing a painkiller during his quarterfinal loss in Rome last month.

Meanwhile, world number one Carlos Alcaraz bulldozed his way into the quarterfinals with an awe-inspiring 6-3 6-2 6-2 crushing of Italian Lorenzo Musetti on Sunday.

The 20-year-old Spaniard, whose maiden run at Roland Garros ended in the last eight last year, next faces Stefanos Tsitsipas or Sebastian Ofner with a potential mouthwatering semifinal clash against Djokovic looming.

Elina Svitolina, playing her first Grand Slam since becoming a mother, reached the French Open quarterfinals for the fourth time on Sunday.

The Ukrainian defeated Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) for a seventh win in seven meetings against the Russian who was a semifinalist last year.

As with all her matches, Svitolina opted not to shake hands with her Russian opponent in protest at the war in Ukraine.

Kasatkina still gave her rival a friendly thumbs-up.

"The support was really special today," said the 28-year-old Svitolina who has been adopted as an honorary Frenchwoman due to her marriage to French tennis star Gael Monfils.

"Now I know what Gael has experienced all these years."

Svitolina, also a quarterfinalist in Paris in 2015, 2017 and 2020, saw a match point disappear in the 10th game of the second set but made no mistake on her second chance in the tiebreaker.

"When I was giving birth to our daughter in October, I never believed I would go all the way to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam," she added.

"It's a special feeling. I hope I can push even further. I am really motivated to give everything in my next matches."

Svitolina will face either world number two and Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka or former US Open winner Sloane Stephens for a place in what would be her third semifinal at the majors.

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