Novak Djokovic: Heroic Comeback to Quarter-Finals Amid Injuries

Defending champion Novak Djokovic showcased his resilience by overcoming Argentine Francisco Cerundolo in a five-set thriller to reach the French Open quarter-finals. Despite battling a knee issue, Djokovic secured his 370th Grand Slam victory, surpassing Roger Federer. He will face Casper Ruud next in a high-stakes rematch.

Reuters | Updated: 04-06-2024 05:42 IST | Created: 04-06-2024 05:42 IST
Novak Djokovic: Heroic Comeback to Quarter-Finals Amid Injuries
Novak Djokovic

Defending champion Novak Djokovic produced a superhuman effort to subdue Argentine Francisco Cerundolo 6-1 5-7 3-6 7-5 6-3 on Monday and reach the quarter-finals of the French Open, as the top seed shrugged off a knee issue for a milestone win.

Big-hitting women's title contenders made short work of their opponents earlier as second seed Aryna Sabalenka thrashed American Emma Navarro 6-2 6-3 while fourth seed Elena Rybakina eased to a 6-4 6-3 victory over Ukraine's Elina Svitolina. Russian 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva then outclassed former compatriot and newly-French Varvara Gracheva 7-5 6-2 to end home hopes in the afternoon, but all eyes were on a potential upset that was brewing on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Djokovic, who is chasing a record-extending 25th Grand Slam title was taken to five sets for the second time in less than 48 hours but showed his class to seal a record 370th match victory at the majors that broke a tie with retired Swiss great Roger Federer. The Serb also celebrated reaching his 59th major quarter-final - the most by any men's player - to eclipse his long-time rival Federer again, while an 11th five-sets Roland Garros win tied him with Gael Monfils and Stan Wawrinka in the Open Era.

"Again a big, big, big thank you because once again like the last match. The win is your win," an exhausted Djokovic told the crowd in fluent French. SMELLING BLOOD

But Djokovic's title rivals in Paris will be smelling blood after another up-and-down display. The 37-year-old showed no early signs of fatigue from his marathon third-round win over Lorenzo Musetti, a 4-1/2 hour epic that ended in the early hours of Sunday morning, as he blitzed claycourt specialist Cerundolo in the opening set.

He sustained a right knee issue early in the next and needed treatment on court before saving four break points to draw level at 3-3 with a backhand bullet, but allowed his opponent a way back in by surrendering his serve in the 12th game. Cerundolo grabbed another break early in the next set to go 3-0 up and comfortably got ahead in the clash as alarm bells began to ring for Djokovic in a second straight match at the claycourt Grand Slam he has won three times.

The finish line seemed to appear in sight for Cerundolo when he raced up 4-2 in the next set, but the 25-year-old squandered the advantage as Djokovic sent down two big serves and produced a spectacular drop en route to holding for 6-5 before levelling the contest. Having dropped serve after a fast start in the deciding set, Djokovic took a nasty tumble during a point and ranted about the state of the Court Philippe Chatrier surface.

He dusted himself off and the smile returned shortly after as he executed a sensational drop volley while doing the splits at 3-3 and celebrated the point by lying on the court with his arms outstretched in a superhero pose. With the crowd firmly behind him, Djokovic closed out a superb victory and paid tribute to fans on the main showcourt at around 9 p.m local time.

"I actually felt great coming into the match, as good as I could under the circumstances and played really well first set," Djokovic told reporters. "Then in the third game of the second set, I slipped, one of the many times that I slipped and fell today. That affected the knee... At one point I didn't know, to be honest, whether I should continue or not."

Next up for the tournament's top seed is a rematch of last year's final against Norway's Casper Ruud after the seventh seed defeated American Taylor Fritz 7-6(6) 3-6 6-4 6-2. Alex de Minaur broke a long Australian jinx as the 11th seed battled from a set down to stun Daniil Medvedev 4-6 6-2 6-1 6-3 and become the first man from his nation in two decades to make the last-eight at Roland Garros.

He will face fourth seed Alexander Zverev after the German outlasted 13th seed Holger Rune 4-6 6-1 5-7 7-6(2) 6-2 in a match that ended in early morning hours.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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