Novak Djokovic went from a big deficit to his best tennis at the French Open on Monday, erasing a two-set hole and grabbing 13 games in a row in a dominant display before his opponent stopped playing because of a back problem.
The result officially goes into the books as a retirement by Lorenzo Musetti, a talented 19-year-old from Italy making his Grand Slam debut. The score when he quit showed Djokovic ahead 6-7 (7), 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0.
It took Djokovic more than two sets and two hours to get going in the right direction at Court Philippe Chatrier in Paris, but once he did, it became a one-way journey. That included a 19-point run for him bridging the end of the third set and start of the fourth.
Musetti, so good at the outset with his one-handed backhand and tremendous touch, is hardly used to this best-of-five-set format at the majors and he took a medical timeout after the fourth. The French tennis federation said Musetti’s reason for stopping was back pain.
This was the second five-setter of Musetti’s career — he won his third-rounder that way — while Djokovic improved to 34-10 when going the distance.
Djokovic wound up 9 for 9 on his break-point chances and with a 53-30 edge in winners.
How surprising was it just to see Musetti take the opening pair of sets against Djokovic, who is seeking his second French Open championship and 19th Grand Slam trophy overall?
The top-seeded Djokovic never had been beaten at Roland Garros by someone ranked as low as the No. 76 Musetti. Djokovic’s only previous loss against a teen at the French Open came back in 2006 against some kid by the name of Rafael Nadal. And Djokovic entered the day 14-0 in the fourth round at the place.
Record 15th quarter-final in Paris
Plus, consider Djokovic’s recent form: He was 10-0 in Grand Slam matches in 2021 and hadn’t ceded more than four games in any set in Paris — let alone an entire set — while dropping a total of just 23 games until Monday.
The 34-year-old from Serbia reached his record 15th quarter-final in Paris and 49th major quarter-final in all. It will come against another Italian, No. 9 seed Matteo Berrettini, who advanced without needing to swing his racket once Monday.
That’s because the man Berrettini was supposed to face in the fourth round, 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, withdrew in order to let his surgically repaired right knee and the rest of his 39-year-old body rest with an eye on Wimbledon later this month.
On an afternoon that began with the sun shining, before clouds intervened, Djokovic’s two-handed backhand, his best shot, was off. Way off.
By the second game of the third set, he already had accumulated two dozen unforced errors off that wing alone.
And while Djokovic is normally adept at tiebreakers — he made no errors at all in the three tiebreakers of his 2019 Wimbledon final win against Federer — Musetti was on-target and so good in those that high-pressure, high-stakes environment.
Musetti is now 10-0 in tour-level tiebreakers for his nascent career.
After that, though, Djokovic took over.
Kenin suffers upset loss to Sakkari
American Sofia Kenin has lost in the fourth round at the French Open to Maria Sakkari of Greece, 6-1, 6-3.
At No. 4, Kenin was the highest-seeded player left in the tournament. She was the runner-up at Roland Garros last October, and was seeking her second major title.
Sakkari, seeded 17th, advanced to her first career Grand Slam quarter-final and earned her sixth win against a top-20 player this year.
Kenin lost serve six times and had 32 unforced errors to 15 for the steady Sakkari
U.S. teen Gauff reaches quarter-finals
American teenager Coco Gauff served superbly to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Ons Jabeur.
Gauff also had a quick match in the previous round. Jennifer Brady retired with an injured left foot after Gauff won the opening set.
Gauff will next face Barbora Krejcikova. She also reached reached her first quarter-final at a major by beating 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-0.
Schwartzman has yet to lose set
Diego Schwartzman posted a fourth straight-set win to reach the quarter-finals.
The 10th-seeded Argentine beat Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 7-6 (9), 6-4, 7-5.
Schwartzman has yet to drop a set in Paris. He made it to the semifinals last year at Roland Garros. He lost to Rafael Nadal. He will either face the 13-time champion or 18th-seeded Jannik Sinner in the next round.