Djokovic Survives Thriller Against Musetti at French Open

Novak Djokovic in action at the French Open.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic came into this year’s French Open after one of his worst-ever starts to a season. However, there were encouraging signs from his opening two rounds, which he won comfortably in straight sets. The 24-time Grand Slam champion needed five sets to beat his third-round opponent Lorenzo Musetti at Roland-Garros back in 2021. Therefore, Djokovic will have expected a very tough match against the Italian. But he still may have been shocked by how hard Musetti pushed him, until the world No. 1 found another level to progress to the round of 16 after an absorbing battle.

Djokovic Wins Thriller Against Musetti

Djokovic Takes Tight Opening Set

Musetti claimed the first break of the match in the third game, which included a line call by the umpire that Djokovic was unhappy with. That annoyance seemed to inspire the Serbian for the rest of the set. He immediately retrieved the break in the very next game with some trademark solid hitting from the baseline. A high-quality set of tennis followed, including many grueling rallies in the slow conditions under the roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The Italian was left frustrated by how quickly all his hard work was undone in the 12th game of the set. Some loose shots handed Djokovic the break he needed to win the opening set 7-5.

Musetti Claims Thrilling Second Set

It seemed like Djokovic was going to run away with the match at the start of the second set. He raced into a 4-1 lead by relentlessly attacking Musetti’s one-handed backhand. But the Italian did not let his head drop. Some outstanding hitting saw Musetti break back in the seventh game of the set. The level of both players increased even more after that, including some mesmerizing backhand passing shots from the 22-year-old.

The gripping second set was decided by a tiebreak. After a series of long rallies, Djokovic had a set point at 6-5 up. Unsurprisingly, the usually clinical three-time champion in Paris was unable to take advantage. Musetti won three points in a row to win the tiebreak and level the match.

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Musetti Dominates The Third Set

Djokovic’s level fell dramatically after losing the second set. He was broken to love in the fourth game of the set after hitting some very uncharacteristic unforced errors. Unfortunately for the world No. 1, things got even worse after that. Djokovic was broken to love for a second time in the set to hand Musetti the set 6-2. Although the 37-year-old was not at his best, Musetti deserves huge credit for how he continued to dominate the long and grueling rallies at that stage of the match.

Djokovic Hits Back To Force A Decider

Djokovic looked fatigued at the start of the fourth set. However, the world No. 1 has dug deep to find energy so many times throughout his career. He began to play much more aggressively and received increasingly vocal support from the crowd. At 2-2, some flat hitting and rushes to the net from the defending champion led to him getting the first break. That was followed by a second consecutive break before Musetti hit back on Djokovic’s service game. But that was only a brief moment of hope for the Italian. A third break of serve saw Djokovic win the set 6-3 and take the match to a decider.

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Djokovic Seals Victory In Style

Musetti continued to try as hard as he could in the fifth set. But Djokovic was completely in the zone after taking the fourth set. He barely missed a shot in the decider and repeatedly made the Italian cover every inch of the court. Musetti was broken for the fourth time in a row at the start of the set, giving him a 3-0 lead. After such a brave effort, the 22-year-old’s level finally fell after more than four hours of battling against the most successful men’s tennis player of all time. Djokovic, whose physical conditioning remains incredible at the age of 37, prevailed 7-5 6-7 2-6 6-3 6-0. He will need some time to recover from such a long match, but winning a long battle like this will do wonders for his confidence.

Main Photo Credit: Susan Mullane – USA TODAY Sports


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