World No. 1 Novak Djokovic survived a scare in his last-16 encounter against Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti on Monday, battling back from a two-set deficit to claim a five-set victory.
While Djokovic raised his level after the first two sets, Musetti struggled with a late injury, eventually retiring in the fifth. It was an anticlimactic finish to a blockbuster contest that the top seed eventually won 6-7(7), 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0.
Speaking to the media after the match, Novak Djokovic, who prides himself on his fitness and mental fortitude on the court, revealed that he likes to play young players in best-of-five set matches. The Serb believes his experience helps him pull through in such situations.
“I like to play young guys in best-of-five, because I feel even if they are leading a set or two sets to love as it was the case today, I still like my chances, because I feel like I’m physically fit and I know how to wear my opponent down,” Novak Djokovic said. “I’ve won most of the five-setters I have played in this tournament and in my career, so I think that experience helps.”
The Serb isn’t wrong. He’s won 33 of the 43 five-setters he’s played in his career, with a 7-3 win-loss record at Roland Garros. The three matches he lost were against Jurgen Melzer (2010), Rafael Nadal (2013) and Dominic Thiem (2019).
Novak Djokovic says he felt more confident after going two sets down
Novak Djokovic, who had not faced Musetti on tour before Monday’s encounter, revealed that he was more nervous at the start of the match than he was at two sets down.
The Serb said losing the first two sets freed him up to play his shots.
“I actually felt, I would say, more nervous when I was starting the match than when I was two sets down,” said Djokovic. “To be honest, I even liked the fact that I lost first couple of sets, because I just played under [a] certain kind of tension and wasn’t able to go through my shots… But credit to him for playing well in [the] important moments.”
The Serb said he felt like a “different player” after taking a bathroom break to refocus after losing the first two sets.
“After I lost the second set and went out to change and came back on the court, I just felt different,” he said. “I was a different player. I had [a] better feeling in my shots. I just had more confidence going through the ball. I decreased the amount of errors [and] I started playing the way I was supposed to play at the beginning.”
Novak Djokovic faces another Italian, Matteo Berrettini, in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
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