July 20, 2024
Chicago 12, Melborne City, USA

Djokovic Grit Shines in Late-Night Victory Over Musetti


In the third set and early stages of the fourth, Novak Djokovic, down two sets to one against Lorenzo Musetti, seemed bewildered. His shots fluctuated between being erratic and weak, while his body language appeared tense and deflated. Djokovic himself admitted he was at a loss for what to do during this period, a sentiment that reflects his uncharacteristic trophy-less season thus far. Yet, a turning point arrived not through an elevation in his play, but in his resolve to fight back. A double fault by Musetti provided Djokovic with a slight opening, which he seized with a powerful forehand to secure a break in the fifth game. With renewed determination and a fierce expression, Djokovic returned to his chair, then proceeded to win 11 of the next 12 games. “I think I was a different player from that moment onwards,” he later remarked. Djokovic, hoping this shift endures for the remainder of the tournament where he is the defending champion, clinched a hard-fought 7-5, 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory over Musetti. This match, which began before 11 PM Paris time on Saturday and concluded past 3 AM on Sunday, marked the latest finish in Roland Garros history. It might just be the spark Djokovic needs in a season where he has struggled to find his form, as indicated by his revitalized body language by the end. Despite appearing exhausted during the final set, Djokovic roared triumphantly after a grueling comeback that could rejuvenate his challenging season.

This year’s lack of titles, the first for Djokovic since 2018 entering the French Open, isn’t as troubling as the manner of his defeats, which have been uncharacteristically subdued. Following his Australian Open semi-final loss to Jannik Sinner, Novak endured three-set defeats in three of four ATP events. At Indian Wells (lost to Lucas Nardi), Monte Carlo (Casper Ruud), and Geneva (Tomas Machac), Novak won the second set only to falter in the decider. Typically, Djokovic rises under pressure rather than capitulating.

Against Musetti, Djokovic faced a similar predicament, trailing two sets to one against an opponent who matched and occasionally outpowered him from the baseline. However, Grand Slam tennis often reveals the true mettle of its competitors, and Novak, despite his struggles elsewhere, showcased his champion mentality. He recovered from a 7-5, 4-1 lead, survived a set point in the second-set tiebreaker, and after losing the next two sets, he capitalized on Musetti’s lapse at 2-2 in the fourth set. From there, Novak dominated, reducing his unforced errors significantly (from 15 and 8 in sets 2 and 3 to 7 and 2 in sets 4 and 5). While not at his peak, Djokovic’s determination shone through in his 39th five-set victory out of 50, a testament to his enduring grit despite a difficult season.

“This was perhaps the best match I’ve ever played here, the most exciting,” Novak said in French, acknowledging the significance of his performance.

Source: https://www.atptour.com/en/news/djokovic-musetti-roland-garros-2024-saturday

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