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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Novak Djokovic: French Open 2024 comeback clinches win v Cerundolo

Reigning champion Novak Djokovic survived being six points from a shock exit to beat world number 27 Francisco Cerundolo in five sets and reach a record 59th Grand Slam quarter-final at the French Open 2024.

Top seed Djokovic seemed poised for a procession after winning the first set 6-1, only to struggle after tweaking his knee while hitting a backhand shot early in the second set.

The 37-year-old, who is bidding to break the record for Grand Slam titles by winning a 25th major, received three medical treatments in quick succession but only noticeably slowed before being broken in the fourth set.

His 25-year-old opponent grinned and shook his head in an apparent sign of disbelief as he closed in on an unlikely victory, while Djokovic raised his arms in an attempt to rally the crowd.

Just when Djokovic seemed spent, the three-time Roland Garros champion found his defiant best to batter his way to redemption from 4-2 behind, taking five of six games and continuing the momentum with an immediate break in the deciding set.

Cerundolo was attempting to reach his first quarter-final at a major and become the first Argentinian to beat a world number one since Juan Martin del Potro surprised Rafael Nadal at the 2018 US Open.

Djokovic had won 48 of his previous 52 matches against Argentinians – Del Potro the player responsible for all four of his defeats in those encounters – but Cerundolo recovered admirably to break back in a tight fifth set.

The Serb frequently exchanged words with his team and appeared angry with officials at what he saw as a slippery surface, but he crucially broke to make it 5-3 before serving out after four hours and 39 minutes of gruelling action.

Djokovic results: ‘Not sure how I won’

Djokovic’s match in the previous round, against Lorenzo Musetti, also went to five sets, ending at 3.07 a.m. on Sunday morning.

“In the last match, I was two sets to one down and in the fourth set you gave me so much energy,” Djokovic told the crowd afterwards.

“Tonight, you did the same. Really, thank you – what can I say? Three or four times I was points away from losing this match.

“Thank you to my opponent. He deserves so much applause, that’s for sure. I’m not sure how I won this match.”

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