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Novak Djokovic: Defending champion and world No 1 survives French Open epic against Lorenzo Musetti

Novak Djokovic reaches last 16 of French Open for 18th time after 3:08am Parisian epic, while Felix Auger-Aliassime sets up meeting with Carlos Alcaraz; you can watch Andy Murray in action at the Stuttgart Open, exclusively live on Sky Sports Tennis from June 10-16

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his third round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Italy's Lorenzo Musetti at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Sunday, June 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
Image: Novak Djokovic survived a late-night epic against Lorenzo Musetti to reach the second week of the French Open

Defending champion and world No 1 Novak Djokovic survived a five-set near five-hour epic against Lorenzo Musetti in the latest-ever finish to a match in French Open history.

The reigning champion showcased the iron will that has made him one of the game's greatest players to avoid defeat in a thrilling contest that got underway at 10.40pm local time on Saturday.

Djokovic went on to seal a marathon 7-5 6-7 (6-8) 2-6 6-3 6-0 comeback victory over 22-year-old Italian Musetti to advance to the last 16 in a match that lasted four hours and 29 minutes and did not conclude until Sunday after 3am local time - shattering the tournament's previous latest finish of 1.26am.

The Serbian claimed his 369th Grand Slam match victory to move level with Roger Federer at the top of the all-time list.

Latest French Open finish ever!

Djokovic's last-night win over Musetti breaks the record for the latest match ever played at Roland Garros

The previous record was 01.26 finish when Rafael Nadal defeated Jannik Sinner in the 2020 quarter-finals

"He played a fantastic match and came very close to victory," Djokovic said on court.

"I was in great difficulties but thanks to your support in the fourth set, I became a different player. It was perhaps the best match I have played here."

The 37-year-old recovered from an early loss of serve and went toe-to-toe with the Italian in the draining first set before edging in front with a crucial break thanks to some incredible defending.

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Djokovic was soon in cruise control in the second set with a spectacular drop that gave him a 3-1 lead.

But Musetti broke back and drew level at 4-4 before saving a set point in a high-quality tie-break to level the match.

The 30th seed then took his game up a few notches to break and surge ahead in the third set, before sealing it comfortably as alarm bells began to ring for a weary-looking Djokovic, who was forced to dig deep to haul himself level.

Djokovic, who ranted about the state of the surface, was also called for a time violation by umpire Adel Nour in the decider, losing his first serve. He pleaded, "Have a little bit of understanding."

Nevertheless, he rediscovered his rhythm to bagel his exhausted opponent at the ungodly hour of 3.08am.

Most Grand Slam wins, all-time

369 - Federer

369 - Djokovic

314 - Nadal

233 - Connors

224 - Agassi

"Who's going to sleep now?" Djokovic added. "It's impossible to sleep, so much adrenaline. If you're having a party, I'm coming."

The 24-time Grand Slam champion next faces Argentine 23rd seed Francisco Cerundolo, who advanced to the fourth round for the second consecutive year.

Djokovic, the three-time Roland Garros champion, must reach the final just to have a chance of remaining No 1 in the rankings, but Jannik Sinner is guaranteed to become the 29th player in history (since 1973) to rise to top spot if he reaches the final on Sunday.

Zverev survives Griekspoor marathon to advance

World No 4 Alexander Zverev survived a marathon match to beat Tallon Griekspoor 3-6 6-4 6-2 4-6 7-6 (10-3) and keep alive his hopes of a first Grand Slam title.

"Incredible match, incredible player, unbelievably dangerous. I don't like to play against him. Credit to him," said Zverev.

Zverev, semi-finalist for the last three years, had not dropped a set in his opening two matches, including a first-round win over Rafael Nadal, but he was on the back foot when the Dutch 26th seed won the opening set.

The German finally broke serve when leading 5-4 in the second set to level the match and made lighter work of the third set and when Griekspoor took a medical timeout it appeared that Zverev would have little trouble closing out victory.

Griekspoor forced a deciding set, however, and held a 4-1 advantage after two breaks of serve before Zverev roared back to win four consecutive games.

The Dutchman kept his nerve to force a tie-break, but after an enthralling match lasting over four hours on Court Philippe Chatrier, it was Zverev who fired down an ace to clinch victory and reach the second week for the seventh time in a row.

Zverev the fighter

Alexander Zverev has won nine consecutive matches on clay in ATP events for the first time since winning 13 between Munich-Madrid-Rome in 2018.

FAA sets up Alcaraz blockbuster

Canadian 21st seed Felix Auger-Aliassime won his rain-delayed third-round match with American 15th seed Ben Shelton 6-4 6-2 6-1.

Auger-Aliassime continued where he left off on Friday when he led 5-4 in the first set before rain stopped play, and will next face Spanish third seed Carlos Alcaraz in the last 16.

The Canadian leads the Spaniard 3-2 in the pair's meetings, but Alcaraz has won their past two clashes.

"For me today the things that were in my control I did really well," Auger-Aliassime said.

"I am pleased with how I handled the match and gave him difficulty. I was able to put a lot of returns in and force his targets on first serve.

"He was not getting as many free points on that serve that he usually gets, so we had to engage in a rally every time and I think that paid off as the match went on."

Rain once again disrupted play on the outside courts.

Medvedev overcomes fearless Machac

Russia's Daniil Medvedev celebrates winning his third round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Saturday, June 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
Image: Daniil Medvedev overcame Czech Tomas Machac to reach the fourth round

Daniil Medvedev beat Tomas Machac 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 1-6 6-4 in an exhilarating clash under the roof on Court Suzanne-Lenglen to move into the last 16.

Machac was in the limelight last month when he stunned world No 1 Djokovic in the Geneva Open semi-finals for the biggest win of his career and he pushed Medvedev in a match lasting over three hours.

"It was a very tough match, I'm very happy I stay constant even in the difficult moments," Medvedev said.

"It was tight. The match could have turned one way or the other, but I'm happy I'm the one who won."

Chair umpire Damien Dumusois of France catches a pigeon that crashed onto the court during the third round match of the French Open tennis tournament between Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic and Russia's Daniil Medvedev at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Saturday, June 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
Image: Chair umpire Damien Dumusois catches a pigeon that crashed onto the court during the match

Having taken the first two sets, Medvedev lost his way and capitulated in the third after he broke Machac, with the 23-year-old Czech player winning the next six games to the delight of a crowd starved of action on a rainy day in Paris.

Medvedev refocused in the fourth set, however, and despite Machac's bold attempts to force a decider, the fifth seed stepped up in the crucial points to advance.

Medvedev faces 11th seed Alex de Minaur after the Australian beat German Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-3.

De Minaur thanked a young spectator who stuck with him all the way through his rain-delayed four-set win.

He said: "That young lad was there from the very first point till the last - with five hours of rain delay.

"He was this little kid that every single change of ends, every single point I won, he was screaming at my face. I'm looking at him and thinking if I was a fan, I would probably be back home, because it was bloody cold out there.

"I just gave him a hug. I was, like, 'mate'... It was a relief more than anything. It was amazing. I appreciate this kid.

"You know, yeah, the fact that he's spent 10 hours at the court today in the freezing cold pumping me up, I was happy that I was able to get a win together with him."

The 11th seed wrote on social media: "I need to find the name of this legend!!! Message me on Instagram, I need you for the next round."

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