Novak Djokovic battles back from two sets down in the French Open fourth round after being stunned early on by 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti as world No 1 wins 16 out of the last 17 games before rival retires
- Novak Djokovic is into the quarter finals of the French Open but was tested
- Lorenzo Musetti won the first two sets after holding nerve in tie-breaks
- The world No 1 responded and won the next two sets 6-1 6-0 to level it up
- Djokovic was on the verge of winning when Musetti retired from the match
Novak Djokovic allowed men’s tennis a glimpse of the future before ruthlessly bringing it back into its present-day state.
At two sets down against 19-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti, an historic upset seemed possible, only for the world No 1 to deliver the most brutal reality check.
It turned out the young challenger was still a world away from emulating fellow teenager Coco Gauff, who made it through to the last eight of a Grand Slam for the first time.
Musetti retired at 6-7, 6-7, 6-1, 6-0, 4-0, physically broken by the effort of two sets in which he showcased his precocious, extrovert talent.
Novak Djokovic moved into the quarter finals of the French Open after beating Lorenzo Musetti
The Serb was forced to work for his win but showed his trademark grit to grind out the win
Djokovic was transformed after going off the court for a lengthy clothes-change after the second set, which he admitted was to change his underwear, not even trying to disguise it as a bathroom break. Musetti will have to get used to this kind of thing.
The 34-year-old Serb was not even worried, knowing that the playing format of a major is so forgiving of hesitant starts.
‘I like to play young guys in best-of-five, because even if they are leading two sets to love I still like my chances,’ he said.
‘I feel like I’m physically fit and I know how to wear my opponent down. I’ve won most of the five-setters I have played in this tournament and in my career.’
Musetti’s one-handed backhand was on full display as he shone in the early parts of the match
Djokovic is a win away from a date with Rafael Nadal in Friday’s semi-final, after the Spaniard saw off another Italian teenager, Jannik Sinner, in straight sets.
Standing in the Serb’s way is Matteo Berrettini, the No 9 seed and yet another of the Italian success stories in men’s tennis.
A long-term programme of world-ranking events on home soil is partly behind their rise.
The Italian was on the verge of a huge upset after taking the first two sets against Djokovic
But then Djokovic dropped just four points in the fourth set as he found another gear
Gauff, still just 17, had made swift work of beating Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 6-3, 6-1 and is back on the rise after struggling to live up to her early hype. She now faces Czech Barbora Krejcikova and is benefiting from ironing out issues with her serve.
‘That’s obviously been a hurdle in my game,’ said the American.
‘I feel like all my matches have been straightforward, like no crazy three sets and stuff. I have had a lot of those in the past. Today I came in hungry and wanting it more compared to my last times in the fourth round.’
Meanwhile, Britain’s Kyle Edmund has confirmed that he will not play Wimbledon after his knee operation, but is optimistic he will return for the US Open.
Djokovic will face Matteo Berrettini in the quarter finals after Roger Federer’s withdrawal