Even when it comes to foreign languages skills, Novak Djokovic wants to be the best.
After strolling into the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters with a 6-1, 6-4 win over qualifier Albert Ramos-Vinolas, the top-ranked Serb told spectators in fluent French how pleased he was with his first win on clay this season.
Djokovic’s next big goal is to win the French Open, the only Grand Slam tournament missing from his already impressive collection.
Mastering another foreign language is on his list, too.
“French is a very global language, I wanted to know it,” Djokovic said Tuesday – in English – during his post-match news conference. “Again, I am still not content with where my level of knowledge of French is, but it’s getting there, even though I don’t get the grammar right.”
Djokovic’s desire to excel in French speaks volumes about his devouring ambition. At 27, the eight-time major champion already has 51 titles to his name and has been at the top of the rankings for 142 weeks, one more than Rafael Nadal.
According to his friend Janko Tipsarevic, Djokovic’s appetite for victory is infinite.
“If you ask me personally, his goal, even though it seems far from now, is to pass (Roger) Federer,” Tipsarevic told the ATP website. “I think that his goal is to be the best player of all time.”
Djokovic is first attempting to dethrone Nadal, the “King of Clay.”
The Serb is off to his best start since 2011 and hopes he can carry his hardcourt form into the clay season, which will climax at Roland Garros, where Nadal has won a record nine times. But the Spaniard’s current struggles might help Djokovic take him off his perch.
The French Open starts on May 24.
In Monte Carlo, Nadal and Djokovic have been placed in the same half of the draw and could meet in the semifinals. Djokovic, however, is not in a hurry to find him on his path.
“He’s somebody that has made history in this sport,” Djokovic said. “He’s probably, looking at the amount of matches that we played against each other, my biggest rival. He’s an ultimate challenger on clay courts. This is where we are right now.”
In a match that sometimes resembled a practice session, Djokovic never looked troubled by Ramos-Vinolas, although he dropped his serve once in the middle of the opening set.
The win over the Spanish clay-court specialist extended Djokovic’s winning streak to 13 matches following back-to-back titles at Indian Wells and Miami.
“I’m really pleased with my performance for my first match on clay against an experienced player on this surface,” Djokovic said. “There was a good intensity.”
Djokovic, who lives in Monaco, showed no problem adjusting to the dust and raced to a 4-0 lead in the opening set, perfectly reading Ramos-Vinolas’ serve to break him twice.
A double-fault and two consecutive backhand mistakes in the next game, however, gave some hope to his opponent, who could not build on the momentum and dropped his serve immediately after he broke.
Fifth-seeded David Ferrer joined Djokovic in the third round when Victor Estrella Burgos retired while trailing 6-2, 2-0, and ninth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov came out on top of a tight first-round match with Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Also, Gael Monfils overcame a shaky start to rally past Russian qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, while 10th-seeded Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also advanced in straight sets.
The 14th-seeded Monfils, who recently returned to the tour after a knee injury, struggled with his serve early before finding his range.
Monfils’ display on the Country Club’s center court was not as flashy as his green-and-yellow outfit. But despite the numerous unforced errors and the erratic tennis, the Frenchman was satisfied.
“I often struggled at this tournament. It’s always a difficult period of the year for me, and I’m really happy I got through this one,” Monfils said. “I’ve lost similar matches here before.”
Wild-card entry Lucas Pouille also advanced and will next face eight-time champion Nadal, while Juan Monaco will be up against Stan Wawrinka after defeating Jiri Vesely 6-4, 6-2.