Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic progressed to the fourth round at the French Open. In this picture, Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after victory over Spain's Fernando Verdasco during their men's singles fourth round match on day eight of the Roland Garros 2018 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 3, 2018. THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic made it to the quarter-finals of the French Open on Sunday with a straight sets win over Fernando Verdasco and his tactics during the match had a shade of Rafael Nadal, according to former British women’s tennis No. 1 Annabel Croft.

The Serbian came through 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and 25 minutes to make the last eight at Roland Garros, where he will face Italian Marco Cecchinato, who shocked eighth seed David Goffin and tenth seed Pablo Carreno-Busta to make his way to the quarter-final.

Djokovic has struggled for form since making his return from injury at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells earlier this year with his best result being a semi-final appearance at the Italian Open. He is slowly making strides to get back to his best and making it to the last eight is definitely going to give him more confidence going into the second week at the French Open.

Croft, who is an analyst these days, noticed a change in his tactics when he took on Verdasco on Sunday. She believes the former world number one has taken a leaf out of Nadal’s book and is employing a shot that is used by the Spaniard, successfully, especially on clay.

“When you hear Nadal talking about how he wants to put balls up high to his opponent, he wants to mess with their rhythm,” Croft said after Djokovic’s match, as quoted by the Express.

“He doesn’t allow his opponents to play from comfortable positions and this is exactly what we saw from Djokovic today. I was intrigued by the loopier ball which Djokovic was using quite effectively,” she added.

Djokovic looks to be picking up form as the tournament progresses, but Croft was concerned about the length of the points and that it took the Serbian over two hours to close out the match.

It was a straight forward win and he is one of the form players left in the tournament having dropped just one set thus far. A win over the giant killing Italian will see him come against either Alexander Zverev or Dominic Thiem, the two best players on clay this season apart from Nadal.

“On paper it looked like a very straight-forward win as he only dropped the nine games — but two-and-a-half hours - it was quite long,” Croft explained.

“Loopy balls is what Nadal has done on clay so effectively over the years. If you loop balls quite high to a backhand then it is quite hard to step in and take control of the point."

“I thought it was very clever tactically but it was longer points than I thought it would be,” she added.

Nadal, meanwhile, is yet to book a place in the quarter-final and will come up against Maximilian Marterer on Monday with the German also having dropped just one set in the tournament thus far.