French Open: Djokovic roars back to reach quarter-finals after major Musetti scare

By Sports Desk June 07, 2021

Novak Djokovic came from two sets down against Lorenzo Musetti on Monday to reach the quarter-finals of the French Open for a record 12th consecutive year after his opponent retired in the fifth set.

The world number one went into the contest with the 19-year-old having not dropped a set at these championships but found himself in big trouble after a gruelling first couple of hours.

It felt like a different match entirely after that, as Djokovic won 16 of the final 17 games before Musetti retired with the scores at 6-7 (7-9) 6-7 (2-7) 6-1 6-0 4-0 in the 2016 champion's favour.

The Serbian seemed unsettled by Musetti's unpredictable early approach, the teenager mixing up forehand speeds and backhand passes to good effect after an early exchange of breaks.

It looked like Djokovic had control of the opening tie-break only for Musetti to win five out of six points to lead 6-5. Two rasping forehands soon secured the set after a Djokovic error.

Belief in a shock upset really did begin to grow when Musetti took a 3-1 lead in the second set, at which point Djokovic literally took his hat off to his opponent. Whether it was psychological or his cap really was a bother, a bare-headed Djokovic promptly broke back to love.

Djokovic's error count dropped from 20 in the first set to 15 in the second, but the momentum still seemed to be with the Italian, who continued to paint the lines from both sides of the court even when it seemed impossible: early in the second tie-break, a reflex lob from the net somehow bounced on the baseline as his opponent watched in disbelief.

Deserved as his lead was, there was still a feeling that, should Musetti's standards slip even a touch, the door to the comeback would be open. Djokovic seemed to sense as much, returning from a bathroom break to power his way through the third set in just 28 minutes, less than half the time of each of the first two.

Suddenly, doubt crept into Musetti's play as Djokovic began to dictate. He won 16 points in a row to take a 4-0 lead in the fourth and broke again with the sort of drop-shot winner that Musetti had anticipated with ease in the opening two hours.

Djokovic was troubled by his lower back before the fifth set and needed treatment to his hand after somehow winning the first point on the Musetti serve despite falling heavily in the dirt.

Yet it was Musetti whose body could simply no longer keep up, his retirement ensuring Djokovic will now face Matteo Berrettini in the last eight.
 

Data Slam: Djokovic kept his cool as Musetti froze

Djokovic is rarely shy about showing his emotions on court, so it was interesting to see not a single outburst even after he fell 2-0 down.

Each player had won 85 points in those first two sets and Djokovic seemed to know this was no one-sided affair. When he moved up a gear and Musetti started to falter in mind and body, it was a totally different contest, Musetti winning just 18 points in the final 17 games.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 53/42
Musetti – 30/49

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 11/2
Musetti – 1/2

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 9/9
Musetti – 2/4

Related items

  • French Open: Uncle Toni has foot in both camps as Nadal and Auger-Aliassime prepare for Roland Garros battle French Open: Uncle Toni has foot in both camps as Nadal and Auger-Aliassime prepare for Roland Garros battle

    Toni Nadal's loyalties will be split between nephew Rafael and current charge Felix Auger-Aliassime after the French Open served up a delicious last-16 clash.

    Known popularly on the tour as Uncle Toni, the man who was at superstar Nadal's side for so many of his greatest triumphs signed up to coach Canadian Auger-Aliassime last year.

    Nadal and 21-year-old Auger-Aliassime have had just one past competitive meeting, three years ago on clay in Madrid, but they will go head to head in Paris in the fourth round, and the prospect could hardly be more appetising.

    According to Rafael Nadal, who says he has "zero problem" with the scenario, Uncle Toni "wants the best for me".

    But Toni Nadal has been hired by Auger-Aliassime, so in theory, he should want the best for the man who grew up in Quebec, too.

    Auger-Aliassime earned a hard-fought 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 win over Serbian Filip Krajinovic on Friday, while Nadal fended off Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp for the loss of only nine games.

    There is seemingly no prospect of the Nadals staying away from one another ahead of the tussle.

    "I already talked with Toni after my match," said Rafael Nadal after sinking the hopes of Van de Zandschulp.

    "For me, it's very simple. He's my uncle. I don't think he will be able to want me to lose, without a doubt, but he's a professional and he's with another player.

    "I don't know what's gonna happen, if he's gonna stay in the box or not, but I don't care. I have zero problem with that. So it's not a story at all for me. I know what the feelings are that we have between each other. I know he wants the best for me."

    Nadal said he had no issue with Uncle Toni working for another player, adding: "He's old enough to make his own decisions, no?

    "I can't thank him enough for all the things that he did for me during so many years. I don't have any problem with any position that he's making. I want the best for him, and he wants the best for me. We are family more than anything else.

    "Not only family; we are a family that stay together all the time. We are in the same village. We spend time in the academy together. We lived incredible emotions together. So he's not only an uncle. He's more than that."

    All of which may have made for interesting listening for Auger-Aliassime, who has joined Nadal in the world's top 10 since their meeting three years ago, with the Canadian at a career-high ninth in the rankings.

    Auger-Aliassime's clay-court form has been patchy this season, and it would be a major surprise if he took the scalp of the 13-time French Open champion, who is defying ongoing foot pain to keep his career going.

    Toni Nadal joined Frederic Fontang in Auger-Aliassime's coaching set-up, and it may be the latter who does much of the tactical planning for the next match.

    "I don't know if I need insight on how Rafa plays, to be honest," said Auger-Aliassime. "I think we all know what he does well.

    "It was black and white from the first time we started working together. We knew it was a possibility that eventually I would play Rafa when I'm working with Toni. And actually now he's present here in this grand slam. But I think Toni will watch from a neutral place and enjoy the match.

    "From my part it's another match, another opportunity to try to play a good match and win, but of course it's very difficult. I don't know how Toni feels. Maybe we should ask him, but he hasn't talked to me about it."

    Auger-Aliassime called for observers to consider the "bigger picture", and what Toni and his nephew, the record-holding 21-time men's grand slam winner, achieved together.

    "It's one match, let's play, but his career and everything is much bigger than this," said the Canadian.

  • French Open: Nadal aims to attend Madrid's Champions League final despite Roland Garros schedule French Open: Nadal aims to attend Madrid's Champions League final despite Roland Garros schedule

    Rafael Nadal intends to attend the Champions League final between his beloved Real Madrid and Liverpool, despite the ongoing French Open.

    Paris' Stade de France plays host to the Champions League showpiece on Saturday, with Madrid aiming for a 14th European Cup as Liverpool look to add to their EFL Cup and FA Cup successes this season.

    Meanwhile, across the city in the French capital, Nadal remains in contention at Roland Garros after defeating Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3 6-2 6-4 on Friday.

    Madrid great Zinedine Zidane was in attendance as the Spaniard cruised to victory, with the 35-year-old setting up a last-16 clash with Felix Auger-Aliassime.

    While Nadal did not get to converse with Zidane, he was aware of the Frenchman's presence as the record 21-time grand slam winner outlined his plans to make the short trip to support Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid.

    "I didn't see him, but I knew it was him, I knew he was there because I was listening to the crowd shouting his name all the time," Nadal told reporters when asked about Zidane. 

    "So I imagine he was there, but I didn't have the chance to see him after my match or talk with him at all.

    "Tomorrow, let's see how I wake up, because, you never know with my body how the surprises are there.

    "But if nothing happens, and I expect nothing happens, and if I'm able to have the right practice tomorrow, my intention and my goal is to be there [at the Stade de France]."

  • French Open: Djokovic hopes for Australian Open return after change of government French Open: Djokovic hopes for Australian Open return after change of government

    Novak Djokovic hopes to have his visa reinstated so he can return to feature at the Australian Open following a change of government Down Under.

    Djokovic eased to a 6-3 6-3 6-2 victory over Aljaz Bedene at the French Open on Friday to set up a last-16 clash with Diego Schwartzman.

    The world number one remains on course to meet record 21-time grand slam winner Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros, in what is the Serbian's first major of the year.

    Djokovic was banned from playing at the Australian Open in Melbourne and was deported from the country due to his unvaccinated COVID-19 status in January.

    The 34-year-old cannot be granted another visa for three years due to Australia's immigration laws, but former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously suggested he could be allowed entry sooner under the "right circumstances".

    Djokovic hopes the arrival of new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will boost his visa-related hopes of featuring in Melbourne at the start of 2023.

    "In terms of the government, yes, I heard the news, but, I mean, I don't know anything about whether my visa is going to be reinstated or whether I'm going to be allowed to come back to Australia," he told reporters.

    "I would like to. I would like to go there and play Australian Open. I don't hold any grudges. Look, you know, it was what it was.

    "If I have an opportunity to go back to Australia and play a place where I made the biggest success in my career in Grand Slams, I would love to come back."

    As for the next clash with Schwartzman as Djokovic aims to equal Nadal's 21 grand slams, the Serbian is expecting a tough test in Paris.

    "Well, he's one of the quickest players we have on tour, and his best results in his career came on clay, so of course he's a tough opponent without a doubt," he added. 

    "I know him well. We played some really good matches on different surfaces. So playing against him, you always have to expect another ball coming back. I'm ready for the physical battle.

    "I haven't spent too much time on the court. I have been striking the ball really well, so I look forward to that challenge."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.