Another failure for Novak Djokovic in Monte-Carlo: the Serb, big favorite this year after the packages of Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, was eliminated in the round of 16 of a tournament which definitely did not succeed him. This year, the executioner of the Serb is the young Italian Lorenzo Musetti (21 years old and 21st in the world) who won 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Enough to plunge Djokovic into disarray. “How I feel after playing like that is really horrible… But congratulations to him, he was able to stay solid in the important moments. That’s all I can say. Good luck to him”, commented the ‘Djoker’ of the bad days.
Holder of the record of 38 Masters 1000 titles, the world number 1 has only won the Monegasque tournament twice, in 2013 and 2015, and has not exceeded the quarters since. Yet the planets seemed aligned this year. In addition to the two great absentees Alcaraz and Nadal, he took advantage of the fact that his opponents, having played the Masters 1000 on hard courts in Indian Wells and Miami, were rediscovering clay during this first major tournament of the season on this surface. . He had been training there for several weeks, not having been authorized to enter American territory, for lack of an anti-Covid vaccine.
But nothing went as planned. Already for his entry into the running, Tuesday in the second round against the unknown Russian Ivan Gakhov (198th), he had been laborious and had taken 1h47 to win 7-6 (7/5), 6-2. Thursday, the adversary was more courageous and was able to take advantage of the obvious weaknesses of the Serb who committed 46 unforced errors, many of them on the forehand. If he did not want to say anything about it, Djokovic had injured his right arm on Sunday in training and he wore a black sleeve on Thursday. “I have nothing to say, I’m fine,” he cut short when he was then asked about this protection.
From the start of the match, he appeared very nervous. And back on the court after an hour’s hiatus due to rain at the start of the decisive round, he also wore a large plaster on the back of his left thigh. After 2h54 of the match (not counting the interruption), he struck a final blow that was too long and left the victory to Musetti who could only savor this moment with emotion. “I got my revenge, in such a beautiful setting, where I live, where I feel at home,” he said. The two men had indeed faced each other in the round of 16 at Roland-Garros in 2021 and Musetti had won the first two sets before dropping the next two and giving up at 4-0 in the last.
At 21, he returns to the quarter-finals of a Masters 1000 for the second time after Paris last year (defeat against Djokovic) and will try to reach the last four of a tournament in this category for the first time. For that, he will have to beat his compatriot Jannik Sinner (8th).
Sinner saves a match point
The latter saved a match point on Thursday before dismissing the Pole Hubert Hurkacz (13th) 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-1. “Now I’m in the tournament,” said Sinner, who had benefited from the premature retirement of Diego Schwartzman, injured, for his entry into the running in the second round. “I needed such a game. I’m now on the pace. I’m not at my best yet, but every day I’m improving,” added the 21-year-old who remains in a final in Miami and a half in Indian Wells.
The other quarter at the top of the table will pit Holger Rune (9th), who took advantage of the package from Matteo Berrettini injured in the abdominals, to the winner of the duel between Daniil Medvedev (5th) and Alexander Zverev (16th). This final match of the fifth day of the tournament started shortly after 8:00 p.m. At the bottom of the table, the double defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas (3rd) quietly qualified at the expense of the Chilean Nicolas Jarry (58th) 6-3, 6-4 and will face the American Taylor Fritz (10th) who dismissed the Czech Jiri Lehecka (42nd) 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
The last quarter will oppose the Russian Andrey Rublev (6th) who beat his compatriot Karen Khachanov (12th) 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, to the German Jan-Lennard Struff (100th), winner 6-1 , 7-6 (8/6) from the Norwegian Casper Ruud (4th), the finalist of the last Roland-Garros and US Open.