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Fortunes suddenly change for world No. 1 Novak Djokovic

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Novak Djokovic looking to remain perfect in France (1:24)

ESPN's Greg Garber and Johnette Howard preview Day 9 of the French Open, including Novak Djokovic, who has won all nine of his sets, facing Roberto Bautista Agut with hopes to continue his dominance. (1:24)

PARIS -- There are many reasons the Grand Slam majors hold a special place in tennis lore. It's not just because everyone who's anyone shows up to chase the title. The two-week length of the tournament often becomes a character in the drama, too. There's plenty of time for operatic twists and turns to happen.

Novak Djokovic found that out Monday when rain washed out the entire Day 8 slate at waterlogged Roland Garros. Serena Williams and second-seeded Andy Murray, Djokovic's greatest threat here, are discovering that, too.

For the first eight days of the tournament Djokovic looked like the most charmed man in tennis. Murray, who is operating on the other side of the draw, rode into Paris off a clay-court victory over Djokovic in Rome that muddied arguments about who exactly should be favored here.

But then Murray started with two nerve-jangling, five-set matches he barely won and voiced concerns about needing to conserve energy if he had any chance to win this tournament.

Two days after that, nine-time champ Rafael Nadal fell out of Djokovic's side of the bracket with an injury. Then eighth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga did, too.

Advantage Djokovic.

Things looked even rosier for the Serbian star when he got on court late Saturday evening because of the weather and willed himself -- comically at times -- to finish his straight-sets dismissal of Aljaz Bedene before darkness could push their match into a second day.

Djokovic literally hustled from position to position on the baseline between points to keep the match moving, and at one point even pleaded -- successfully -- with chair umpire to stay in his chair rather than trundle down to check a ball mark on the court.

Advantage Djokovic, again.

But that all changed with Monday's rainout of all 31 scheduled matches, which marked only the second time in the 115-year history of the tournament that an entire day of play was canceled.

There's a fear that Tuesday's entire schedule could be rained out, too.

If that happens, Murray will have enjoyed two days rest because he was safely able to advance to the quarterfinal round with his win over John Isner on Sunday. But the cancelation Monday of Djokovic's match against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut means Djokovic could conceivably now face a gauntlet of four best-of-five matches in five days if he's going to win his first title here.

Murray would face three matches in five days, a much more comfortable ask.

Similarly, while Serena's showdown against 18th-seed Elina Svitolina and Serena's sister Venus Williams' contest against No. 8 Timea Bacsinszky were rained out Monday as well, they're at least on to the fourth round and thus, in better shape than the other side of the women's draw.

Contenders such as Simone Halep, Samantha Stosur, Agnieszka Radawanska and Tsvetana Pironkova are now stuck still trying to finish the third-round matches they started Sunday. American Madison Keys was on schedule until she saw her fourth-round match against Kiki Bertens was washed out Monday as well.

None of them will go home looking as star-crossed as Djokovic will if he doesn't win this title. No other French Open men's singles winner has ever had to wait more than 11 years to win his first title at Roland Garros. Djokovic is now making his 12th visit to the tournament.

While his 0-2 record in finals against Nadal when Nadal was at his height seem understandable, Djokovic's shocking four-set loss to eighth-seeded Stan Wawrinka last season still resounds.

Djokovic has already won 11 majors, including five of the past seven, but American Davis Cup coach Jim Courier, a two-time winner here, recently joined a large chorus of former players and tennis experts who insist Djokovic needs a title here to make his case for best-ever over Roger Federer, who has 17 majors overall but hasn't won one since 2012 at Wimbledon.

Djokovic insists he isn't "obsessed" with winning the French Open, but he also doesn't deny he feels the weight of expectations to prevail here, at last.

"People obviously wonder if this is the year [that will change] or not," Djokovic said in a recent news conference. "I wonder myself. ... But look, you know, it does depend on me how I'm going to use this emotion. So I try to use it as a motivation to inspire myself, to play well, to stay calm and focus only on the present moment."

But after Monday's rainout, the emotion, stamina and belief the 29-year-old Djokovic will need now to pull it off looks exponentially tougher, even with Nadal , Tsonga and Federer all injured and out of the draw.