Novak Djokovic is a legend everywhere especially in Wimbledon, says Lorenzo Musetti on his semifinal clash 

Djokovic and Musetti have played each other six times previously. Djokovic has won five of those, including a five-setter at this year's French Open that concluded after 3 a.m.

Published - July 11, 2024 10:12 am IST - London

Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti celebrates after defeating Taylor Fritz of the United States in their quarterfinal match at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, on July 10, 2024.

Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti celebrates after defeating Taylor Fritz of the United States in their quarterfinal match at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, on July 10, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

Lorenzo Musetti threw his head back and spread his arms wide to celebrate reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon, then covered his face with both hands.

His 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Taylor Fritz on July 10 was a big deal, to be sure. After all, the 25th-seeded Musetti, a 22-year-old from Italy, never had made it past the third round at the All England Club — or past the fourth round at any major tournament — until this fortnight.

Now, though, comes a far tougher test: taking on Novak Djokovic.

“He probably knows, better than me, the surface and the stadium, for sure,” Musetti said with a chuckle, aware he'll be making his Centre Court debut on July 12. “Jokes apart, he's a legend everywhere, but especially here in Wimbledon.” This will be Djokovic's record-tying 13th semifinal at Wimbledon alone — equaling Roger Federer — and 49th Slam semifinal overall, extending a mark he already held. As Musetti pursues his first major championship, Djokovic seeks a 25th, including what would be an eighth at the All England Club.

  

Djokovic's smooth trip through this year's bracket was made even easier when the man he was supposed to play in the quarterfinals Wednesday, Alex de Minaur, pulled out with a hip injury hours before their match was scheduled to begin.

Musetti was forced to work for his spot in the final four: His 3-1/2-hour victory over the 13th-seeded Fritz was the 37th five-setter at the All England Club this year, the most at any Grand Slam tournament.

Musetti acknowledged he didn't get off to an ideal start, in part because of nerves. But an early break in the second set helped alter the course of the evening.

“Immediately, I changed my mind. I changed my attitude,” he said. “And that probably made the difference.” Musetti's son, Ludovico, was born in March, and he said Wednesday that helped him rededicate himself to his sport and strive to no longer “throw away matches.”

  

“Instead of me teaching him, he's teaching me. … Having a child makes you reflect a lot,” Musetti said. “I feel more mature on the court, more mature off the court, and more mature as a player, as a father, as a person.” Playing at a sun-swathed No. 1 Court against Fritz, an American who is one of the sport's biggest servers but fell to 0-4 in major quarterfinals, Musetti managed to accumulate 13 break points and convert six.

With Queen Camilla, the wife of King Charles III, in the stands and joining fans in doing the wave, Musetti did far more to vary his strokes — a drop shot here, a lob there, plenty of slices — than Fritz did.

“I just felt like it took a lot to finish the point,” Fritz said.

Djokovic had knee surgery less than a month before the start of play at the All England Club. But despite limitations on his movement, the 37-year-old Djokovic has dropped only two sets so far — facing a qualifier in the first round, a wild-card entrant in the second and only one seeded player, No. 15 Holger Rune.

  

Instead of going up against No. 9 de Minaur on Wednesday, Djokovic will get three full days off before meeting Musetti. The other semifinal Friday is defending champion Carlos Alcaraz against Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic and Musetti have played each other six times previously. Djokovic has won five of those, including a five-setter at this year's French Open that concluded after 3 a.m. It was in Djokovic's following match in Paris that he tore the meniscus in his right knee.

“We know each other pretty well. They've always been a huge fight so I expect a big, big fight. It's going to be one of the toughest challenges on tour,” Musetti said, “but I am an ambitious guy and I like to be challenged.”

In the women's quarterfinals Wednesday, 2022 champion Elena Rybakina grabbed nine of the last 11 games to defeat No. 21 Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2, and No. 31 Barbora Krejcikova eliminated No. 13 Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 7-6 (4) in a matchup between two past champions at the French Open.

The other women's semifinal on Thursday is No. 7 Jasmine Paolini of Italy against unseeded Donna Vekic of Croatia.

Kazakhstan's Rybakina ended her win with her seventh ace and improved to 19-2 at Wimbledon in four appearances.

“Definitely, I have an aggressive style of game,” Rybakina said. “I have a huge serve, so it's a big advantage.” Krejcikova won her first Grand Slam title on the red clay at Roland Garros in 2021, but the 28-year-old from the Czech Republic never put together a five-match winning streak on grass until now.

De Minaur's exit is the latest due to injury in Week 2. His hip issue arose right at the end of his win against Arthur Fils on Monday.

De Minaur said he heard a crack and knew something was wrong.

He underwent medical tests Tuesday that revealed the extent of the problem but tried to practice on Wednesday morning, hoping to participate in what would have been his first Wimbledon quarterfinal.

“This was the biggest match of my career," de Minaur said, “so wanted to do anything I could to play.”

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.