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By Chris Oddo | Sunday June 4, 2017

 
Novak Djokovic

Defending champion Novak Djokovic set up a Rome rematch with Dominic Thiem with a straight-sets win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Sunday in Paris.

Photo Source: Adam Pretty/Getty

Andre Agassi was not in attendance but Novak Djokovic was.

The Serb’s new supercoach has left Paris for other previous engagements but there was no visible withdrawal symptoms for Djokovic, who battled early and cruised late to notch a 7-6(5), 6-1, 6-3 victory over Spaniard southpaw Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Djokovic’s victory ties him for second on the all-time Grand Slam win list with Jimmy Connors—the pair now each have 233 lifetime wins to their name at majors.

The No.2-seed converted 7 of 10 break points and smashed 34 winners to ensure a finish just before sunset in Paris. He’ll next face Austrian Dominic Thiem, who blitzed Horacio Zeballos, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1, to reach his second consecutive quarterfinal.

Djokovic reached his 11th career quarterfinal at Roland Garros to tie Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for most all time, but more important, he played the caliber of tennis that could take him further into this draw.


Though his mettle was tested in a first set that saw him trail by a break twice, the 30-year-old pushed through in a tiebreaker and used the momentum to put wind in his sails for the final two sets.

"After that (first set) I started playing with fewer errors and that was good. That gave me a lot of confidence," Djokovic said in a courtside interview.

This season has seen Djokovic go on a lot of unexpected walkabouts at inopportune moments but there was only a firmness and a growing belief on Sunday as he finished off the No.19 seed in two hours and 27 minutes.

He’ll face Thiem for the second time in two weeks and the fifth time overall. At Rome, Djokovic swallowed up Thiem and spit him out, 6-1, 6-0, but the match came 24 hours after after the Austrian had notched a thrilling victory over Rafael Nadal. This time the 24-year-old, a winner of 21 clay-court matches this season, will be well rested and hungry for another shot—it should give him hope.

But Djokovic has shown his toughness in Paris and he has navigated a tricky draw of accomplished clay-courters—Marcel Granollers, Joao Sousa, Diego Schwartzman and Ramos-Vinolas—and passed every test, including coming back from two sets to one to defeat Diego Schwartzman in the third round.

Thiem took just seven games in a semifinal with Djokovic in Paris last season, but he looks to be playing at a different level than he did last spring—or even two weeks ago. He has dropped just 25 games in four matches and has yet to drop a set.

"He is a one of the best players in the world, especially on this surface,” the 12-time major champion said. “Now I have a day to rest and get ready."

 

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