Djokovic beats Musetti after 3am in latest ever French Open finish


Djokovic at times looked exhausted but dug deep to see off Musetti

Djokovic at times looked exhausted but dug deep to see off Musetti – GETTY IMAGES

Novak Djokovic added yet another record to his never-ending collection as he scored the latest-ever victory at Roland Garros, concluding an early-morning night session by eventually defeating Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti at 3.07am.

“Who will sleep now?” Djokovic asked the crowd after his 7-5, 6-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory, which occupied four-and-a-half hours. “It’s impossible to sleep with all this adrenaline. If you have some parties, I will come. Allez!”

Here was the latest crazy finish in a sport that has become addicted to them. Until recently, play at the French Open had been restricted to the hours of daylight, but the tournament’s character has changed dramatically since the introduction of night sessions in 2021. Over the past week, numerous matches have finished after midnight.

Nothing like this has been seen here before, however. The previous record at Roland Garros was set by Rafael Nadal and Jannik Sinner, who finished at 1.26am in the autumnal, Covid-disrupted event of 2020.

Five other major matches have run late. Although most of these have been recent, the record is still held by the 2008 Lleyton Hewitt-Marcos Baghdatis match at the Australian Open, after which the players drove past the early-morning bin collectors on their way home.

Djokovic and Musetti were originally supposed to begin at 8.15pm or shortly thereafter, but the terrible weather in Paris over the past week had pushed organisers behind schedule. To try to make up some ground, they inserted an additional match into the Court Philippe Chatrier line-up, so that the headline act was delayed until 10.36pm.

As the defending champion and world No 1, Djokovic must have been already concerned about the damage that this delayed start would do to his whole campaign. And that was before Musetti began playing the sort of tennis that he produced while beating Djokovic in Monte Carlo last year.

The 30th seed is an elegant player with a glorious single-handed backhand. Musetti used this photogenic shot to edge out Djokovic in the second set tie-break, and then dominate him in the third set.

But despite railing repeatedly at his player box, Djokovic found another level when threatened, finally subduing Musetti with a strong late surge that belied the 15-year age gap. His eventual victory was his 369th at the majors, equalling Roger Federer’s tally.

“It’s incredible that you’re here at this time in the morning,” Djokovic told the fans in his on-court interview. “There’s children here who should be sleeping.”

Musetti's one-handed backhand caused problems for the world No 1Musetti's one-handed backhand caused problems for the world No 1

Musetti’s one-handed backhand caused problems for the world No 1 – GETTY IMAGES

After leaving the court, he was still buzzing at his own dramatic escape, telling reporters that while the schedule “could have been handled a different way”, he did not want to get into it as there were other “great things” to talk about.

While the remaining fans on Court Philippe Chatrier were thrilled by their extended entertainment, many questions remain about the advisability of playing professional sport at such an anti-social hour. The two tours brought in new rules to prevent these sorts of finishes in January, although the French Open is one of the four majors and thus not subject to tour rules.

In the words of Ahmad Nassar, who leads the PTPA player union, expecting athletes of Djokovic’s stature to compete into the small hours “is not OK”.

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