Musetti’s struggles aside, Djokovic relies on experience to produce comeback

Trailing two sets to love against Lorenzo Musetti, Novak Djokovic did not panic. The world No 1 relied on his experience and easily made a comeback to advance at Roland-Garros on Monday.

Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2021

Coming back from two sets down is nothing new for Novak Djokovic. It’s not like it happens frequently — it doesn’t with any player on tour — but it has happened on more than a few occasions with the world No 1. So when Djokovic dropped his first two sets against Lorenzo Musetti in the French Open fourth round on Monday, the Serb stayed calm and composed. Perhaps during a break in between the second and third sets he reflected on his past comebacks.

  • Wimbledon 2005 v Guillermo Garcia Lopez: 3-6, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4
  • US Open 2011 vs. Roger Federer: 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5
  • Roland-Garros 2012 against Andreas Seppi: 4-6, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3
  • Wimbledon 2015 v Kevin Anderson: 6-7, 6-7, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5

It was surely no surprise to himself or to anyone watching to see Djokovic recover swiftly and decisively after losing each of the first two sets in tiebreakers. Wasting no time engineering his fifth career comeback from a two-set deficit, the top seed ended up charging ahead 6-7(7), 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0 before Musetti retired.

Yes, the 19-year-old Italian was struggling physically at the end. But it was Djokovic’s experience that was the biggest factor in such of significant mid-match reversal. He was a completely different player after returning from that aforementioned break.

“I was changing my underwear and everything else; so if you really want to know what I was doing, I was not using the toilet at all,” Djokovic said afterward. “So as soon as I changed I came back, but I think sometimes even if it’s a few minutes’ break from the court to leave this environment, it just resets you mentally. I have experienced that in the past, similar situations where I just feel like even if it’s a very short break where you leave the court, it works very well mentally just to kind of refresh, get few deep breaths, and come back to the court kind of as a new player.”

“I LIKE TO PLAY YOUNG GUYS IN BEST-OF-FIVE”

It was not only Djokovic’s experience that gave him confidence despite trailing by two sets. The fact that he was also facing such an inexperienced opponent was never far from the 18-time Grand Slam champion’s mind. In fact, Musetti had never played in the main draw of any slam prior to this fortnight. This was the biggest match of his career — and Djokovic knew it.

“I was saying before that I like to play young guys in best-of-five,” he explained, “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 in the best-of-five match. And, you know, I’ve won most of the five-setters I have played in this tournament and in my career, so I think that experience helps.

“But it’s unfortunate for him to finish the match the way it was finished, you know, with retirement. He was obviously struggling physically from probably the beginning of the fourth…. It’s unfortunate for a young player like him, being two sets to love up on the center court in his first fourth round, he was unable to physically sustain the level, at least to give himself a chance to win this match, because he was in a driving position — definitely — for the first couple sets.”

As every knows, though, it’s never easy to finish off Novak Djokovic.

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