Paris | Djokovic and Zverev scramble through tough five-setters

Saturday turned out to be the longest day ever at the French Open as the defending champion and top seed, playing the last evening match on Philippe Chatrier, just managed to overcome his latest challenger at 3.07am Sunday morning!

I was in real trouble. Credit to Lorenzo for making me uncomfortable on court and playing some really amazing tennis, really high level Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic beat Lorenzo Musetti in a five-set thriller to book his place in the fourth round at Roland Garros, recovering from two sets to one and avoid experiencing an early exit from the second Grand Slam of the season.

In the process he became the owner of the latest finish in French Open history, another record for the Serbian to note in his personal record book – and he can thank the weather for his latest achievement as it has continually disrupted the week’s schedule.

Djokovic himself wouldn’t be drawn on commenting whether his match should have gone on that late as he told the media later following his epic 5-7 7-6(6) 2-6 6-3 6-0.

“I knew you guys were going to ask me that. Look, I don’t want to get into it. I have my opinions, but I think there are great things to talk about instead. Both Lorenzo’s and my performances stood out, I don’t want to be talking about scheduling (but) I think somethings could have been handled a different way.

“But there’s beauty as well, I guess, winning a match at 3:30am… If it’s the last one of the tournament, but it’s not, so I’m going to have to switch on all of my young genes and try to recover as soon as possible.”

And it was a classic which also highlighted the resilience of Djokovic thereby putting a question mark over the poor results he has recorded during the season s far and leading to Paris.

That looked to be the case from the 10.37pm start of the third-round encounter for, despite showing some lethargy, he built a 7-5 4-1 when Musetti, no slouch on clay, took full advantage of Djokovic’s lack-lustre approach to storm back and snatch the second set on a tiebreak and level the match after two hours at 1.00 am.

Lorenzo Musetti plays on late in the morning in front of a shrinking crowd

(Photo by Mateo Villalba/Getty Images)

The Italian kept the pressure up in the third but whatever momentum he had got rolling, he broke it by taking a break after securing a two-sets to one lead. That break also allowed Djokovic to re=programme himself and when the match resumed, it was the Serbian who had rediscovered his dominant game of old to win the last seven games and ten of the final 11 to inflict a bagel on his opponent and avoid the looming possibility of an early exit.

The win also edged Djokovic to another possible record for his book as he equalled Roger Federer’s tally of 369 grand slam wins, a number he could exceed when he plays Francisco Cerundolo, the Argentine who dispatched his higher ranked opponent, American Tommy Paul, 3-6 6-3 6-3 6-2, in the next round.

Reflecting on the match, Djokovic admitted he had problems which the crowd helped him through.

“Well, I was in real trouble. Credit to Lorenzo for making me uncomfortable on court and playing some really amazing tennis, really high level.

“At one point, I didn’t know what to do. From both ends, he was getting a lot of balls back, winners from both corners, good serves, running every ball down the court. It didn’t feel great playing him in that third set and the beginning of the fourth.

“I really mean what I said on the court that the crowd definitely got me going. I really needed that push, I needed that energy at two-all in the fourth. They started chanting my name, and I just felt a great new wave of willpower and energy. I think I was a different player from that moment onwards.

“The fifth set was just amazing. I was on a high, riding that wave and really not letting go of that stranglehold that I created on Lorenzo at the end of the fourth. I just kept going, kept on plugging away and an amazing winner to finish the match.

“I want to thank all of you and of course the crowd and everybody that stayed until 3:30am. I heard it was the latest finish of Roland-Garros in history, so I’m glad to be part of the history with Lorenzo.

“I told him at the net that he played amazing, and it was a great battle. I know it’s a tough one to swallow, but he can be proud of his performance.”

Djokovic wasn’t the only big name to face the possibility of an early exit for earlier in the day, Alexander Zverev, the fourth seed and Rome Masters champion, nearly joined Andrey Rublev, the Russian Madrid Masters champion who lost on Friday, in the queue for the exit after picking up their prize money.

Tallon Griekspoor was the player who nearly downed the big German with the biggest win of his career, but the Dutchman couldn’t capitalise on a two-break. 4-1 lead he held in the fifth set as his game disintegrated.

Alexander Zverev's patience paid off

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Zverev managed to stay patient throughout and that paid off, especially during the latter stages when Griekspoor choked delivering double faults and clutches of unforced errors.

In the end, Zverev came through 3-6 6-4 6-2 4-6 7-6[10-3] to reach the fourth round where he faces Holger Rune, the young Dane, who cruised past another German, Josef Kovalik 7-5 6-1 7-6(2).

“He’s unbelievably dangerous,” Zverev said of his opponent later. “I always struggle against him but I loved every second. The support I get at this grand slam (from the crowds) is greatly appreciated.”

In the three matches that sere suspended on Friday, Canada’s Felix Auger Aliassime finished off the young American, Ben Shelton 6-4 6-2 6-1 while Poland’s Hubet Hurkacz battled past Canada’s Denis Shapovalov 6-3 7-6(0) 4-6 6-1 and Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov used his experience to good effect to get past Belgian Zizou Bergs 6-3 7-6(4) 4-6 6-4.

In other action Taylor Fritz (12) held off Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-3 6-2 6-7(4) 5-7 6-3 and faces two-time finalist Casper Ruud ((7) who, in another late 1.00 am finish, beat Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-4 1-6 6-2 6-2.

Also through is Daniil Medvedev (5) who survived a tight match with Czech Republic’s Tomas Machac 7-6(4) 7-5 1-6 6-4 and will face Australia’s Alex de Minaur (11) in what could be another epic encounter. The Australia put on an impressive performance to dismiss German’s Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-3.



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