Tennis Prose



Djokovic Survives Cerundolo At French Open

Facing Djokovic

By Scoop Malinowski

Started watching Djokovic vs Cerundolo at 5-5 in the fourth set after the defending champion revived himself from the dead and rallied his way back into the epic duel.

With Cerundolo playing the match of his life and Djokovic hampered by fatigue from the previous marathon match vs Musetti, a knee issue, slippery court, it looked like time was running out for Djokovic and the 27th ranked 25 year old was showing all the attributes to terminate the king.

But then suddenly out of nowhere late in the fourth set, Cerundolo showed a hint of weakness by angrily complaining about his decision to hit an errant backhand up the line instead of cross court. Sure enough, the 24 time Grand Slam capitalized and won that game and the next, though they did not come easily and Djokovic had to earn every point, Cerundolo wasn’t ready to finish the dragon slaying job.

Into the fifth, Djokovic rode the momentum to a 2-0 lead but Cerundolo refused to roll over and even roared after a big point to show everyone, Hey I want this too, I will not roll over. Cerundolo held for 22 and a realization struck: there is no more stressful and tense sport than a Grand Slam tennis fifth set. Every shot is life and death, every stroke comes down to millimeters and ridiculous precision. These warriors have to be perfect under enormous strain and stress and they have to do it over and over and over.

Every detail matters. It was Djokovic who expressed he had more desire and wanted to win more. I felt Cerundolo sensed this on some level and in some immeasurable way surrendered without even realizing it. He was the better player for most of the match and had everything in his arsenal to win the match but Djokovic simply wanted it more. In the moments of truth in the fourth and fifth sets the young dragon slayer wilted. It’s very hard to explain this observation.

Djokovic also commands so much respect from every player for everything he has achieved and all the oppression and corruption he overcame. Cerundolo is still partially an introvert on the big stages of tennis and while his game is ready to win a Grand Slam, something in his make up is not yet.

Another key moment was that lunging, splitting forehand volley Djokovic made off Cerundolo’s running forehand cross court passing shot. It may have been the greatest volley in history off the best passing shot of the century. Flat on his belly Novak did his airplane flying gesture and Cerundolo smiled in respect and honor. It was a reminder he was sharing a court and battle with the greatest champion in the history of sport. It’s still not his time. The master is still the master, the student …

The final point was a Cerdundolo miss wide that the chair umpire had to get out of the chair and confirm. The stadium erupted.

Final score: 61 57 36 75 63. Djokovic advances to the QF which Cerundolo was aiming to reach for the first time at a major, though he was won two ATP singles titles. What we saw today is that Cerundolo can win a French Open title, or more, in the next five years.

When Djokovic raised his level at the end and began striking his finest shots with his magic wand Head Speed racquet, the Chatrier Stadium crowd screamed and roared in adoration. Djokovic is clearly a huge favorite in Paris and that energy boosting power source surely also contributed to the result. Cerundolo probably gained more respect today than any other match in his life so it will be interesting to see how this performance affects his future. He’s now a force win in the ATP and a Grand Slam contender.

But it’s still the Djokovic Era because he can still play at his ultimate level and most importantly, he still wants to win these titles more perhaps more than he ever did.

To win these Grand Slam epic marathons, he must be obsessed and possessed by the drive to be the best. Djokovic still has that burning desire and ruthlessness – and of course the game to do it. We will see if Cerundolo learned from this…

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  • Douglas Day · June 3, 2024 at 4:00 pm

    Why are they slighting Taylor USA no 1 for coverage of Rune Zererev?

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 3, 2024 at 5:49 pm

    Good question, maybe Nike made the order? Fritz dropped Mike for Boss. Can’t think of another reason.

  • Sam · June 3, 2024 at 7:37 pm

    Well, Scoop, that was completely unfair they scheduled him for a day match after his previous match finished at 3 a.m. 🤮 Would they have done that to Nadal???

    So . . . how far do you think Djokovic will go now? Frankly, I think he could make the final at least.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 3, 2024 at 9:23 pm

    Sam, what I see in Djokovic is he wants this more than everybody else. If the body and spirit hold up and don’t run out of gas, the title is his. But he’s been depleted by the schedule and these two five setters. The best tennis is yet to come believe it or not.

  • Sam · June 3, 2024 at 11:05 pm

    Hope you’re right, Scoop, about the best tennis being yet to come. What these five-setters did provide, though, was two important things:

    1) A test of both his mettle and his tennis.
    2) A much-needed boost in confidence. Now, deep down, he knows he’s still “got it.” 💪

    It’s interesting that Ruud is actually considered (by the bookies at least) a slight favorite for the quarterfinals. When Djokovic is considered an underdog, watch out. 🦁

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 4, 2024 at 7:47 am

    That’s a surprise Ruud is the betting favorite. Doubt that factor will effect the match or Djokovic, who is in peak form and battle hardened. We’ll see if the fuel tank has enough left. Or if one of these younger guys suddenly explodes with a Safin blowout vs Sampras at US Open final.

  • Cory · June 4, 2024 at 11:30 am

    ALL OVER Djokovic for even money tomorrow. I’m a big Ruud fan – who has the mental game 100% but he just doesn’t have quite the experience or skill. Ruud can win but he’ll have to do it deep in a 5th set … just see the Joker rising, as he usually does

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 4, 2024 at 11:38 am

    Djokovic is out, MRI found a tear in his meniscus. You have to wonder if he can overcome this or if a knee injury will prevent him from ever reaching his ultimate level which we witnessed again yesterday.

  • Sam · June 4, 2024 at 7:51 pm

    Ouch. 😠

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