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French Open: Djokovic gears up for ‘firepower’ Musetti in fourth-round

Fixture for spot in quarterfinals to be played on Monday

SAMAA | - Posted: Jun 6, 2021 | Last Updated: 2 months ago
Posted: Jun 6, 2021 | Last Updated: 2 months ago

Photo: AFP

World number one Novak Djokovic said he expects Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti to try and play the ‘tennis of his life’ when the pair meet for a spot in the French Open quarter-finals.

The Serbian tennis star cruised into the last 16 in Paris for the 12th consecutive year, the longest such streak at Roland Garros in the Open era.

He swept past 93rd-ranked Ricardas Berankis 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 on Saturday, making short work of the Lithuanian for the second French Open in a row.

Djokovic is bidding to be the first man in more than half a century to win all four majors on multiple occasions.

He will next face a player who became just the sixth man since 2000 to make the fourth round of a major on his debut.

“I really like how he plays. He’s got a lot of firepower from both forehand and backhand,” Djokovic said ahead of a first meeting with Musetti. “He can play with a lot of spin. He’s got a great feel, comes to the net. He can play short balls, dropshots. He can flatten out his serve. He can open up with a good kick and slice. He’s got really all-around game. Not just for clay. Probably, maybe his biggest wins he made on the hard court so far.”

Djokovic reached the French Open final last year for the first time since winning the 2016 tournament. He was beaten convincingly by Rafael Nadal but is eyeing another run at the title after an impressive first week.

In contrast, the 19-year-old Musetti is appearing in his first Grand Slam main draw, having twice fallen in qualifying for the Australian Open.

Musetti overcame 2018 Roland Garros semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato in five sets to extend his debut run, taking his fifth match point to seal a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win.

With Musetti and compatriot Jannik Sinner, also 19, advancing to the last 16, it is the first men’s French Open to feature two teenagers at this stage since 2006, when Djokovic and Gael Monfils reached the second week.

“I know that he is a big challenge to me,” said Djokovic. “So there is no question I have to go out playing on a high level because he will not have much to lose. I’m sure he’s going to come out and really try to play the tennis of his life playing on one of the two big courts.”

Musetti is ranked a career-high 76th following semi-final runs at both Acapulco and Lyon this year, but playing the top seed at a Grand Slam is a big step up for the former junior number one.

“We practised a lot with Djokovic together, so we know each other a little bit,” said Musetti. “For sure there is going to be a little bit of tension, but I think it’s what I’m working for since my childhood. All the sacrifice and hard work I did in the childhood became reality now. So I’m just enjoying the moment and I will try to do my best.”

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