Djokovic consoles 'nice guy' Bautista Agut after mother's death

The 31-year-old former world number one struggled at times on Suzanne Lenglen court, but eventually came through the four-set battle in three hours and 48 minutes with Bautista Agut, who said he “didn't know” how he managed to play the tournament.

Former champion Novak Djokovic knocked the 13th seed out in the third round by claiming a hard-fought 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 victory.   -  Getty Images

Novak Djokovic consoled a grieving Roberto Bautista Agut on Friday after the Spaniard played at the French Open only a week after his mother's death.

Former champion Djokovic knocked the 13th seed out in the third round by claiming a hard-fought 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 victory. “I like Roberto. He's a very nice guy. We get along very well ever since he came on the tour,” said the Serbian.

“We have tons of respect and appreciation for each other. We exchanged these words. I tried to, also give him support for... I don't know how much you guys know, but he has been through some difficult times with his family. That's something that is really unfortunate and for him to come to this tournament, and to be able to play like this, it's quite an effort.”

READ: Djokovic delighted by 'best set' against Bautista Agut

The 31-year-old former world number one struggled at times on Suzanne Lenglen court, but eventually came through the four-set battle in three hours and 48 minutes with Bautista Agut, who said he “didn't know” how he managed to play the tournament.

“My life is tennis... I'm used to going inside the court and forgetting about my real life, and try to do my work. That's the thing I've been doing for a lot of years. I have to tell you that it was not easy to go on the court these days,” said the 30-year-old, as he reflected on the death of his mother, Ester.

Djokovic has now made the last 16 of a Slam for the 43rd time, tying Jimmy Connors on the all-time list. The 12-time Grand Slam champion, seeded 20, after struggling to find his best form since returning from an elbow injury, will take on Fernando Verdasco for a last-eight place after the Spaniard knocked out fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov.

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The Serbian has also reached the second week at Roland Garros for the last nine years in a row. “Fours hours for the match, I'm a bit tired, Bautista Agut plays with too much patience for me, but I'm very happy to have won the match,” said Djokovic, who holds a 10-4 head-to-head record over Verdasco.

Djokovic, who is at 22 in the world is at his lowest ranking since 2006, became frustrated at times during the opening set, but he grabbed the first break of the match in game 10 to take a one-set advantage.

The 31-year-old looked to have found his rhythm when he eased 4-1 clear in the second, but Bautista Agut battled back and saved three set points before taking a tie-break. Djokovic was given a warning for racquet abuse as his anger boiled over.

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“In these kind of circumstances, sometimes emotions get, you know, get the worst out of you. I'm not proud of doing that, to be honest. I don't like doing that. However, at times, it happens,” he said.

He continued to grind away in a topsy-turvy third set, though, with Bautista Agut failing to serve it out as both players were broken three times.

The gruelling encounter passed three hours as Djokovic forced another breaker, which he took on his third set point. That knocked the resistance out of the Spaniard, as he was broken at the first time of asking in the fourth set.

Djokovic is still lacking a little of the killer instinct of previous years and he failed to serve out the match when leading 5-1, but quickly put any thoughts of a late wobble to bed in the following game.