"'The best tennis player ever'... I'm like No way" - Aleksandar Kovacevic recalls being drawn against Novak Djokovic in French Open 2023 1R
Novak Djokovic lifted his 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2023 Roland Garros. He began his journey in Paris against American Aleksandar Kovacevic.
Novak Djokovic was the no. 3 seed and came to Paris after a quarter-final exit at the Italian Open. Meanwhile, the then-World No. 114 Kovacevic was initially listed to play the qualifiers. He only entered the main draw after withdrawals from higher-ranked players in the main draw list.
Aleksandar Kovacevic was on the hunt for his first-ever tour-level win on the clay. However, this didn't come to pass as Djokovic defeated Kovacevic in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (1). The 36-year-old went on to beat Marton Fucsovics, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Juan Pablo Varillas, Karen Khachanov, Carlos Alcaraz, and Casper Ruud to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires (The Musketeers' Cup) for the third time in his career.
Kovacevic recently spoke about his experience at the 2023 Roland Garros on The Changeover podcast. The 25-year-old recalled heading to France for the Major with the knowledge that he was in the qualification draw and just a few spots away from entering the main draw. Kovacevic said he was training well in Paris and dubbed it the "best week of clay tennis of my life."
"I'm like I have to go to France because I'm like three out of main draw for the French Open. So I'm like damn I got to play qualies, like whatever I can't play like Lyon or something like an extra week. So I go to French. I end up, Berrettini or someone pulls out, getting in main draw," Kovacevic said.
Kovacevic further added:
"So I'm there basically for qualies but I'm in main draw so I'm there for like an extra week and I'm training at the French and I'm training like unbelievably well, like best week of clay tennis of my life."
The American had exceptional training sessions and was confident he would register his first clay court win on the ATP Tour at Roland Garros. Three days before the main draw action, the World No. 123 knew that he would play a seeded opponent in the first round and was waiting to see who it was.
His coach, Dean Goldfine, was following the draw ceremony and came up to Kovacevic to tell him that he had been drawn against "the best tennis player ever." The American instantly knew he was drawn to play against Djokovic and realized that his goal of a maiden clay court victory had to wait for now. Nonetheless, Kovacevic called this the best story of his 2023 clay court season.
"I'm like dude I figured it out and I might get my first win this week and then I'm sitting with, I think Ben Shelton and Tiafoe and this is like three days before the main draw and draw ceremony is happening and Dean's got it up on YouTube and I play a seed, like it shows like me next to a seed and they're drawing the seeds.But I didn't know that," Kovacevic said.
"I was like grabbing my sushi or something and I come back and Dean's like huge smile on his face and he's like, "guess who you play?" I'm like, "Who?" He's like, "the best tennis player ever." I'm like, "no way I play Novak!" Yeah first round. I was like well I don't know if I'll be getting my first clay court win this week. That was the story of my clay court season," he stated.
Novak Djokovic's Career Grand Slam-winning racket fetches record price at auction
Novak Djokovic won his first title at the French Open in 2016. The Serb, seeded No. 1, defeated No. 2 seed Andy Murray in the final 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to achieve his first Career Grand Slam, i.e., winning all four Major titles. Djokovic also became the first male player to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time since Rod Laver in 1969.
After defeating Murray, the now 24-time Grand Slam champion was over the moon and threw his racket into the stand. A lucky fan named Abby Doherty caught Djokovic's racket and recently put it up for auction.
The auction, organized by California-based SCP Auctions, sold the 27-inch Head Speed Graphene Touch PT113B racket for a record $107,482. This is the highest-ever amount paid for a tennis racket at an auction. The minimum bid for the item was set at $10,000 and received 23 bids.