Down two-sets-to-love, the Serbian superstar didn’t panic and he used that tension and his vast experience to work his way into a record 12th consecutive quarter-final with a 6-7(7), 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0 victory, which ended when Musetti retired due to cramps and lower back pain, atptour.com reported.
“I actually felt, I would say, more nervous when I was starting the match than when I was two sets down,” said Djokovic.
“To be honest, I even liked the fact that I lost first couple of sets, because I just played under [a] certain kind of tension and wasn't able to go through my shots… But credit to him for playing well in [the] important moments.”
The momentum in the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting started to shift once both players left Court Philippe-Chatrier at the end of the second set. Musetti won just 17 more points.
“After I lost the second set and went out to change and came back on the court, I just felt different,” said Djokovic, who is now 24-3 on the season. “I was a different player. I had [a] better feeling in my shots. I just had more confidence going through the ball. I decreased the amount of errors [and] I started playing the way I was supposed to play at the beginning.
“Then towards the end of the third, beginning of the fourth, I saw that he was struggling physically [and] obviously that gave me even more motivation to try to apply more pressure on him and kind of finish him off.”
Djokovic believes that his Monte-Carlo training partner has all that it takes to rise into the upper echelons of the FedEx ATP Rankings.
“Musetti definitely has all the qualities in his tennis, in his game on clay particularly, but also [on] other surfaces to be a top player,” said Djokovic. “I wish him all the best. He's a nice guy… We've trained quite a bit [together], and now we played for the first time. I think if he keeps going in this way [that] he's definitely on the right path to becoming a top player one day.”
The 34-year-old Djokovic will next challenge Musetti’s compatriot, ninth seed Matteo Berrettini, in the quarter-finals today after improving to 31-9 in five-set matches at the four Grand Slam championships.
“I like to play young guys in best-of-five, because I feel [that] even if they are leading a set or two-sets-to-love, as was the case today, I still like my chances,” said Djokovic.
“Because I feel like I'm physically fit and I know how to wear my opponent down in the best-of-five match. I've won most of the five-setters I have played in this tournament and in my career, so I think that experience helps.”