Novak Djokovic keeps his French Open title defense going by getting past Lorenzo Musetti in 5 sets | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Novak Djokovic keeps his French Open title defense going by getting past Lorenzo Musetti in 5 sets

Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a shot against Italy's Lorenzo Musetti during their third round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Saturday, June 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

PARIS (AP) — Novak Djokovic’s French Open title defense — and his hold on the No. 1 ranking — are still alive thanks to a 7-5, 6-7 (6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 comeback victory over 22-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti in a third-round match that lasted 4 1/2 hours and did not conclude until Sunday after 3 a.m., the latest finish in tournament history.

It is Djokovic’s 369th win at a Grand Slam tournament, tying Roger Federer for the most in tennis history.

Djokovic briefly looked as if he might be in trouble against Musetti but instead ran away with the final two sets and now will continue his bid for a record 25th Grand Slam title and fourth at Roland Garros.

Gasping for break while leaning over with hands on knees, or taking so much time between points that he earned a warning, the 37-year-old Djokovic appeared to be exhausted at times against his much younger, backward-hat-wearing opponent. Musetti was propelled to the lead by a one-handed backhand, a deft touch at the net and a 5-for-5 success rate on break chances.

But Djokovic is nothing if not a determined problem-solver. And once Djokovic got headed in the right direction in the fourth set, thanks to playing more aggressively on service returns and closer to the baseline during groundstrokes exchanges, the 30th-ranked Musetti could not withstand the charge.

One telling stat: Djokovic improved to 39-11 in fifth sets over his career; Musetti fell to 2-6.

Djokovic has spent more weeks atop the ATP rankings than anyone, but if he fails to return to the final at the French Open, he will cede that spot to Musetti’s countryman, current No. 2 Jannik Sinner.

That’s because a loss in this match would have been the latest in a series of disappointing results in 2024 for the oft-dominant Djokovic, who won 12 of the last 20 Grand Slam events he entered and hasn’t been beaten this early at a major since the Australian Open in January 2017.

Not only hasn’t he earned a trophy at any tournament this season, but he hasn’t even reached a final.

That’s why, a week ago, Djokovic assessed his mindset when arriving in Paris with a 14-6 record this year: “Low expectations and high hopes.”

Those words also might have described Djokovic’s thoughts entering the fourth set against Musetti, who never has been past the fourth round at any Slam.

The bundled-up spectators frequently chanted Djokovic’s first name, or his two-syllable nickname, “No-le.” Musetti heard plenty of support in Court Philippe Chatrier, too. The sound reverberated off the underside of the retractable roof, which was closed because of showers that arrived earlier Saturday, the fifth day in a row with showers.

That weather was partially responsible for Djokovic and Musetti not setting foot on court until 10:30 p.m., more than two hours later than originally planned: Tournament organizers moved an additional contest into the safe-from-rain main stadium ahead of Djokovic-Musetti to try and make sure the third round would get completed on time.


AP tennis:

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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