Djokovic Survives From Two Sets Down At Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic (photo: Florian Heer)

PARIS, June 7, 2021 (by Alessandro Boroch)

For the fifth time in his career, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic completed a comeback from two sets down to secure a place in the Roland Garros quarterfinal round.

The 17-time major champion overcame Italian prospect Lorenzo Musetti 6-7(7), 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0 after three hours and 27 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

During the first two sets, Musetti allowed the 2016 Roland Garros champion only two breaks of serve, having shown the whole plurality of his game. Lots of semi-fast slices and elaborate changes of pace did not allow Djokovic to get enough depth and power behind his strokes, hence a two-set deficit that he faced if he were to win.

In the end, the experience of hundreds of best-of-five matches paid off for Djokovic, who ended the match winning 13 straight games from 3-1 in the third set, including 19 consecutive points during the first four games of the fourth set. Musetti was eventually forced to retire in the final set due to struggling on court with cramps and a lower-back injury.

Next, Djokovic will oppose ninth seed Matteo Berrettini, who benefited from a walkover in the fourth round following the withdrawal of Roger Federer on Sunday. The 34-year-old Serbian goes into the match with a 1-0 lead in their head-to-head campaign, having beaten Berrettini in straight sets at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals in London.

“[He has a] big serve, big forehand – two big weapons,” said Djokovic about his next opponent. “He’s in form. He finished the last year very strong. He started this year strong as well, beating Dominic Thiem in Australia, playing [a] really good ATP Cup. He just has so much firepower in his game. [I will] need to be at [my] best in order to have a chance to win.”

Sakkari dismantles last year’s runner-up Kenin

No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece eased past last year’s finalist and 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin 6-1, 6-3 in just 78 minutes on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, becoming the first Greek woman in the Open Era to reach a Grand Slam singles quarterfinal.

I was stuck in the third round a lot of times, and that was an obstacle,” Sakkari said to media, after her win. “I wanted to just kind of break that curse and make it to the fourth round. Now I’m excited to be in the quarterfinals for the first time.

“I knew it was going to come. I didn’t know when. But I think that I’ve been playing very good tennis, especially this year, and I don’t see why [I can’t go] further as well.”

During the course of the match, Sakkari struck 19 winners to 15 unforced errors and capitalized on six of her 10 break point opportunities. Further, the World No. 18 lost only four points on her first serve, winning 21 of 25 overall.

Nadal has yet to drop a set

Thirteen-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal, the undisputed favorite to win the trophy at this year’s clay-court major in Paris, successfully continued his hunt for a record-extending 21st singles major title. Nadal, 35, ousted 19-year-old Italian prospect Jannik Sinner 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 in two hours and 17 minutes. It was the rematch of their quarterfinal encounter from last year, with a similar ending this time, too.

In the first set, Sinner recovered from a break deficit, eventually serving for the set at 5-4 – just as he did last year at 6-5 in the opener. However, once again, Sinner showed signs of nerves with four straight unforced errors, including a double fault to lose the break. After that game, Nadal never lost control of the match as he won seven straight games to get a 4-0 lead in the second set.

The Mallorcan improved his head-to-head rivalry against the young Italian to 3-0 and has now reached the quarterfinal stage in Paris for the 15th time in his career. In addition, Nadal has won 35 consecutive sets at Roland Garros, a streak dating back to 2019. For the second time in his career since 2018 – when Nadal already had a streak of 38 consecutive sets  –  he will be eyeing to pass the record of Hall of Famer Björn Borg, who won 41 in a row from 1979-1981.

On Wednesday, Nadal will take on 10th seed Diego Schwartzman, who emerged victorious from a well-contested fight against German Jan-Lennard Struff, 7-6(9), 6-4, 7-5. Schwartzman fought back from 1-5 down in the first set, saving an incredible amount of seven set points in total.

Like Sinner, the Argentine does not have great memories from facing Nadal at Roland Garros, having lost to him in straight sets last year in his maiden appearance in a Grand Slam semifinal.

The only time Schwartzman managed to beat Nadal was just ahead of last year’s Roland Garros match, when he captured a straight-set win during a night-session match in Rome. Overall, Nadal leads their head-to-head series 10-1.

Krejcikova & Gauff set up quarterfinal clash

Twenty-five-year-old Czech Barbora Krejcikova continued her run of form with an impressive 6-2, 6-0 victory over former Roland Garros finalist Sloane Stephens of the United States. With her win, Krejcikova extended her winning streak to nine matches after winning the WTA 250 Internationaux de Strasbourg title a week ahead of the start of Roland Garros.

Despite her unthreatened 69-minute victory, Krejcikova did not know whether she would be able to step on court, as she suffered a bout of severe nerves just a few hours before the start of match.

“I woke up and I just felt really bad,” she said. “I just felt really stressed. I don’t know why or what for. Half an hour before the match, I didn’t even want to step on the court. I had to lock myself in the physio room and I had to talk to my psychologist. I was actually crying. I just felt really, really bad, and I don’t know why. It just happened.

“Half an hour before the match, I didn’t even want to step on the court. I had to lock myself in the physio room and I had to talk to my psychologist. I was actually crying.”

Up next for Krejcikova will be 17-year-old teen high-flyer Coco Gauff, who booked her first Grand Slam quarterfinal berth without dropping a set after easing past 25th seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, 6-3, 6-1, in just 53 minutes. Gauff became the youngest American to reach the quarterfinal at Roland Garros since Jennifer Capriati 28 years ago in 1993.

“It means a lot to me,” Gauff told the media in her post-match press conference. “I have lost in the fourth round a couple times so it feels good to get over that hurdle. Today I played probably my best match so far in the tournament.”

“I feel like all my matches have been – I don’t know how to say it, but straightforward wins, like no crazy three sets and stuff,” Gauff said, reflecting on her campaign so far. “As we know, I have had a lot of those in the past.

“I just feel like this has been the most consistent tennis I have played at this level. Hopefully I can keep that going. “

Just as her upcoming opponent Krejcikova, Gauff came into Paris with a trophy in her luggage, having been crowned as the champion at the WTA 250 in Parma, Italy, two weeks ago. Overall, the Florida resident holds an impressive 16-3 record on clay this season, with her only losses coming to Iga Swiatek, Karolina Pliskova and today’s opponent Ons Jabeur.

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