Saturday Night Fever sees Novak Djokovic outlasting Lorenzo Musetti in titanic contest at French Open

Novak Djokovic and Lorenzo Musetti
Novak Djokovic and Lorenzo Musetti (PC: Roland Garros/X)

If you were born in the late 70s, you would have been hooked to an all-time fav number, ‘Stayin Alive’ belted out by Bee Gees. Those were the days of disco, tight shirts, and narrow pants. To capture the spirit of that number, one movie stands out for its production, Saturday Night Fever, which had John Travolta as the superstar, with this song an integral part of it.

At the Court Philippe-Chattrier, even as Novak Djokovic was struggling against Italian Lorenzo Musetti, from Saturday night 11pm till 3.08 am, Sunday, Paris local time, one song was being played: Stayin Alive. Whether the song was being played deliberately during the changeover(s) to fire up the two combatants at the French Open is not sure. What we saw was two men in full cry. Yes, Djokovic is getting old, he can never be the same. Yes, Musetti was stoking the fire, playing a high intensity of tennis in long rallies. Shots were being traded front and back, side to side, almost 24 exchanges for one point. Indeed, fans loved it.

But then, if people thought Italian Musetti had hit the cruise control button, he was proved wrong by numero uno Djokovic, 37, yet, still full of energy. For those who know a thing or two about scheduling matches in Grand Slams, night contests are usually at the Australian Open and the raucous US Open in New York.

Sadly, with scant respect for the players’ sleep and body clock, tournament director Amelie Mauresmo and her team wanted Novak and Lorenzo to begin play at 11pm. This was bizarre, almost to the point of being cruel. But then, the winner of 24 Grand Slam titles from Serbia, Djokovic, knows more than a thing or two about adapting and channelising his inner energy into strength and then fire.

For the Latest Sports News: Click Here

Novak Djokovic in all smiles
Novak Djokovic in all smiles (PC: Roland Garros/X)

What a turnaround, what a comeback, this was one climb back from jaws of death as Djokovic showed there is a difference between a winner and a champion. If millions of tennis fans around the globe wanted to see, again, Djokovic in full cry, he responded. The situation looked hopeless, for Musetti was riding on a wave, in terms of tennis produced and crowd support.

Even as social media was cursing the French Open organisers for poor scheduling, Djokovic seemed in a state of nirvana. His emotions are few, but when he decides to emote, the opponent better watch out. After losing the second and third sets, a few were prepared to write their script – Goodbye Djokovic.

Never make that mistake, as Djokovic never gives up. Like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever dancing, gyrating and sending the audience into raptures in Saturday Night Fever, he had to respond. The tapestry of tennis he produced was out of this world. This was beast mode and his best mode. Striding the court softly like a lion would in its own domain, a forest cover, Novak spang back to life.

It was ridiculous for sure, as the match was converted into an indoor match under arc lights. The whole dynamics change, gets stuffy indoors, the tennis ball gets heavier and to impart more power in each shot demands extreme fitness. But then, when was Djokovic ever low on gas. He stepped out, and the strokes flowed from his racquet, forehand, backhand, razor-sharp execution. There was a change of pace, direction and depth as well. He was, soon, hitting winners into deep pockets on the brick-red Parisian clay.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic (PC: Roland Garros/X)

The audience was in raptures, the Djokovic team, comprising family, wife Jelena included, and coaches sitting in the stands, were ecstatic, as the winner of 24 Grand Slam titles carved out a five-set win in four hours and seven minutes. Towards the end of the contest, Djokovic still had gas in his tank, though sweat drenching his T-shirt, shorts and wrist-band suggested he had burnt enough calories. In between, one saw Djokovic wipe his forehead with the wrist-band, as if it was a towel.

Well, such mannerisms are Djokovic specific as he raced into the fourth round. Stats, banal when over-used, can serve as a footnote. After all, apart from gunning for his 25the Grand Slam title, he had won his 369th match in a Grand Slam, which was titanic for sure. This brings him at par with Roger Federer for maximum matches won in the Majors. Up next is No. 23 seed Francisco Cerundolo in the fourth round on Monday. How well he recovers is important but he has a whole entourage to take care of his body.

Plus, he also has on board, just for the French Open, coach Boris Bosnjakovic, who works at the Novak tennis centre in Belgrade. He had parted ways with Goran Ivanisevic recently, on a good note. Another Boris, with a famous surname of Becker had also worked with Djokovic in the past. Working with a cerebral pro is not easy, so for a new Boris to ideate with the Serbian King is proof, even champions need someone to keep guiding them.

“I was in real trouble and credit to Lorenzo for making me uncomfortable on the court and playing some really amazing tennis. Very high level. At one point, I didn’t know, really, what to do,” the 37-year-old Djokovic said. “It didn’t feel great playing him that third set and the beginning of the fourth.”

Also Read: Easy ride against Bangladesh, but questions galore for India ahead of T20 World Cup