Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Italy's Lorenzo Musetti on day seven of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on June 2, 2024.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Italy's Lorenzo Musetti on day seven of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on June 2, 2024.(Photo | AFP)

Djokovic into French Open last 16 after early hours five-set epic

His reward is a clash with Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina for a place in the quarter-finals.

PARIS: Novak Djokovic avoided crashing to his worst defeat at the French Open in 15 years in the early hours of Sunday morning when he clinched a five-set victory over Italy's Lorenzo Musetti.

Defending champion and 24-time Grand Slam title winner Djokovic came from two sets to one down to triumph 7-5, 6-7 (6/8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 in a third round tie which ended at 3:07 a.m. (0107 GMT).

His four-hour 29-minute victory also allowed the 37-year-old world number one to equal Roger Federer's record of 369 Grand Slam match wins.

His reward is a clash with Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina for a place in the quarter-finals.

"I need to say congratulations to Lorenzo Musetti it's a shame someone had to lose," Djokovic said in his on-court TV interview.

"I want to say to him he played an incredible match. He was very, very close to winning.

"I had a bit of luck at the start of the fourth set, at that stage he was the best player on the court. He was impenetrable in the fourth.

"He played with a really high quality. I was in great difficulty."

The 22-year-old Musetti had given Djokovic a major scare at the French Open in the fourth round in 2021 when he took a two sets lead before injury forced a final set retirement.

Djokovic had arrived in Paris having not won a title or even reached a final in the season for the first time since 2018.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Italy's Lorenzo Musetti on day seven of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on June 2, 2024.
Djokovic eyes Federer record and French Open last 16 spot

Adding injury to insult, he was accidentally hit on the head by a metal water bottle in Rome before suffering stomach problems in Geneva.

On Saturday, organisers decided to add extra matches to the two showcourts with roofs at Roland Garros after heavy rain brought a five-hour suspension of play.

As a result, it was almost 10:45 p.m. (2045 GMT) when Djokovic and Musetti eventually took to Court Philippe Chatrier.

Djokovic retrieved an early break in the first set and broke again in the 12th game to secure the opener.

He was 3-1 up in the second before he was pinned back in the seventh game while wasting a set point in the tie-breaker.

Musetti was suddenly the fresher of the two as the clock ticked towards 2 a.m.

He swept through the third set courtesy of a double break.

However, in an astonishing turn around, Djokovic summoned his trademark fighting spirit and tenacity to level the tie with a double break of his own in the fourth set.

Musetti, 15 years Djokovic's junior, suddenly saw his hopes fade as he quickly slipped 4-0 down in the decider.

Djokovic completed victory with a forehand winner having reeled off 11 of the last 12 games.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com