Novak Djokovic battles past Davidovich Fokina as Cameron Norrie crashes out | French Open 2023

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Novak Djokovic’s confidence continues to grow as he moved into the fourth round of the French Open after defeating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-2 in a tough, hard-fought contest on Friday evening in Paris.

Carlos Alcaraz, the top seed and favourite, also sailed through with an easy 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over 26th seed Denis Shapovalov.

The 14th seed Cameron Norrie, meanwhile, suffered a deeply frustrating 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 defeat to the talented young Italian Lorenzo Musetti, the 17th seed, who now faces Alcaraz.

Djokovic’s victory marks his 14th consecutive appearance in the fourth round of the French Open and his 88th victory at the event. He said: “I’m happy with where I am at the moment with my game. Can it be better? Certainly. I still didn’t drop a set. I did play quite a few tiebreaks.

“But, look, it’s important to keep going. I have been in this situation really a lot of times in my career, so entering the second week, the matches, you have to expect that the matches are only going to get tougher.”

Despite surviving in straight sets, his afternoon was not without its difficulties. Davidovich Fokina served for the first set at 6-5 before losing his serve and playing a tiebreak that Djokovic, the third seed, edged. In the second set, after trailing by a break, Davidovich Fokina moved level with the Serb before bringing up a set point at 6-5 on Djokovic’s serve.

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Once again, Djokovic elevated his game in the decisive moments. After grinding the Spaniard down on the set point, Djokovic again edged through the tiebreak.

After the second set, Djokovic called the trainer and received a massage to his left thigh. While he appeared to have some minor struggles with the thigh, with the two sets behind him he loosened up and played his best tennis of the match.

The victory marked another positive step forward for Djokovic as he tries to rebuild his form after an uncertain clay season. He has struggled with his right elbow and the 36-year-old arrived here without a semi-final on clay this year. But he continues to back himself across best-of-five sets, where players must overcome many more mental and physical hurdles in order to beat him.

Cameron Norrie looks despondent against Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti during his defeat
Britain’s Cameron Norrie was the higher ranked player but lost to Lorenzo Musetti. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Even as he continues to search for his level, Djokovic’s ability to play his best tennis in the most important moments on Friday was a positive sign for the 22-time grand slam champion. He will next face either Juan Pablo Varillas or Hubert Hurkacz, the 13th seed.

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As in his second round match on Wednesday, Djokovic played with a Taopatch gadget taped to his chest, a piece of technology activated by sunlight.

On its website, Taopatch claims that it: “Nourishes the body with wavelengths of therapeutic light, without side effects or the release of any chemicals. Wearable every day, it’s activated by sunlight and body heat ensuring treatments of 720 hours each month.”

Asked about the patch on Wednesday, Djokovic responded sarcastically: “When I was a kid I liked Iron Man a lot, so I try to impersonate Iron Man. You know, my team delivers an incredibly efficient nanotechnology to help me deliver my best on the court, so that’s the biggest secret of my career. If it wasn’t for that, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here,” he said.

Meanwhile, Norrie’s defeat marked the end of British involvement in the French Open singles draws. While Norrie prides himself on his mental strength and consistency, he was deeply disappointed with his attitude during the first two sets and he struggled to find any rhythm as his unforced errors piled high. He ended a frustrating day with an uncharacteristic 49 unforced errors.

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“I came out very flat, and, yeah, disappointed with the attitude in the first couple sets,” said Norrie. “It was very, very slow conditions, very heavy, and I was not prepared for it to be that slow.

“I can play bad and everything, but I was just very flat and disappointed to have a performance like that. I mean, the first two sets he didn’t really do too much, and he was up two sets to love. For a player like myself, I can’t afford to give that much of an edge.”

On Friday night, Rafael Nadal announced he has undergone arthroscopic surgery in order to investigate his injured left psoas hip muscle, which has troubled him since the Australian Open in January. The winner of 22 grand slam titles turns 37 on Saturday.

Earlier on Court Suzanne Lenglen, Lorenzo Sonego produced one of the biggest upsets of the men’s tournament so far, recovering from two sets down to defeat the Monte Carlo champion Andrey Rublev 5-7, 0-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3.

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