(AFP) - Novak Djokovic said that being world No. 1 can be the "best and worst" thing after setting up a possible French Open quarter-final against old rival Rafael Nadal on Sunday (May 29).
The reigning champion, bidding to equal Nadal's record of 21 Grand Slam titles, eased to a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 victory in his last-16 tie against 15th seed Diego Schwartzman.
He has spent a record-breaking 371 weeks as the ATP No. 1, but says that can make matches more difficult.
"Being number one is the best and worst thing about being number one," Djokovic said. "I have been blessed to be number one that many weeks throughout my career.
"That was always the highest goal beginning of every season, particularly being in the era with (Roger) Federer, Nadal, the guys that are greats of the game. So of course that makes the success even bigger.
"On the other hand, the downside of being number one is that you are always being chased by everyone else that wants to dethrone you and wants to win against you in every single match, regardless of the size or category of the tournament."
Djokovic is playing in a major tournament for the first time this year after being deported from the Australian Open, where Nadal won his 21st Grand Slam, over his Covid vaccination status.
The world No. 1 is still to drop a set at Roland Garros after cruising through the first week.
The 35-year-old is looking for a third French Open title after securing a second crown last year by defeating Nadal in the semi-finals and coming back from two sets behind to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
"Somehow winning a title here is always probably the hardest of any Slam for me," added Djokovic who will face Nadal for the 10th time at Roland Garros if the 13-time champion defeats Felix Auger-Aliassime later Sunday.
"Last year the second week that I had here was just probably the toughest four matches, toughest seven days I had to win any Slam in my career."
Djokovic took his head-to-head record against Argentinian Schwartzman to 7-0 with a clinical display, in which he saved seven of the eight break points he faced.
He is into a 16th French Open quarter-final and has not failed to reach that stage since 2009.
The Serbian star saved two break points in the third game of the match before racing through the opening set.
The second proved to be far more competitive, though, as Schwartzman took a 3-0 lead before being broken back as the top seed reeled off three quick points.
Djokovic had to stave off three break points to level the set at 3-3 and made it five straight games with a gutsy hold after Schwartzman dropped serve again.
A series of blistering baseline shots wrapped up the set, leaving Schwartzman needing to become only the second man to come back from two sets down to win against Djokovic at a Grand Slam.
Schwartzman continued to consistently put Djokovic's serve under pressure without being able to apply the killer touch, seeing another break point come and go in the fifth game of the third set.
The pattern of the match continued, as Djokovic broke in the very next game to all but end the tie as a contest.
Schwartzman saved a match point in game eight to force Djokovic to serve it out, which he did, to love.