Novak Djokovic enjoys milestone win in Geneva before French Open defence

<span>Novak Djokovic marked his 37th birthday with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Yannick Hanfmann at the Geneva Open.</span><span>Photograph: Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA</span>
Novak Djokovic marked his 37th birthday with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Yannick Hanfmann at the Geneva Open.Photograph: Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA

Novak Djokovic returned to the court after his difficult experience in Rome with a milestone 6-3, 6-3 win against Yannick Hanfmann to reach the quarter-finals of the Geneva Open as he looks to gain essential match practice before his French Open title defence.

The victory marks Djokovic’s 1,100th career win on the ATP tour, an achievement he attained on his 37th birthday. Djokovic is the third player in history to reach 1,100 ATP wins, behind only Jimmy Connors (1,274) and Roger Federer (1,251).

Related: Numbers game: why rankings matter in tennis – and why they can distract

Having produced one of the best seasons of his career in 2023, winning three of the four major titles, this year has been difficult for the world No 1. He is still searching for his first title of 2024 and his hopes of preparing well in Rome for the French Open were thwarted by a straight-sets defeat against Alejandro Tabilo in the third round of the Italian Open.

Two days before that defeat Djokovic had been signing autographs after his first win when a metal bottle fell from a fan’s backpack in the crowd and struck him on the head. Djokovic said he had experienced nausea, dizziness and his head bled that night. While the symptoms seemed to abate the next day, Djokovic said he felt like a “completely different” player on court during his defeat against Tabilo and he would undergo medical examinations.

Djokovic also skipped the Madrid Open before Rome, meaning he would have been extremely low on matches going into Roland Garros, where he is the defending champion. He opted to take a wildcard into Geneva. “I feel like I need more matches, even if it’s one match, two matches, three, four hopefully,” he said. “It’s good for me, because that’s the way for me to try to find that kind of form that I need for Roland Garros.”

Despite some difficulties, Djokovic certainly looked like himself as he controlled the match until the end. After closing out the first set in a dramatic, lengthy final game that was broken up by a rain delay, Djokovic trailed 0-3 in the second set before reeling off six games in a row to close out the match. After the match, the Swiss crowd sang Happy Birthday to the top seed before he received a large cake. He will face either Denis Shapovalov or Tallon Griekspoor in the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile Dominic Thiem’s career at Roland Garros came to an end as he was defeated 6-2, 7-5 by Otto Virtanen in the second qualifying round. After the match, which was played out to a packed crowd on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, the 30-year-old gave a farewell speech and received a commemorative trophy from Amélie Mauresmo, the tournament director.

The French Tennis Federation has received criticism in recent days for not granting Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, a wildcard into the main draw. The tournament opted to reserve its singles wildcards for French players along with its reciprocal deals with the Australian and US Opens.

In the men’s doubles tournament, however, the FFT broke with tradition by granting Andy Murray and Dan Evans a main-draw wildcard in doubles. Murray will use the opportunity as doubles practice for the Olympic Games, where he hopes to play with Joe Salisbury.