Musetti to face Djokovic in first Grand Slam semi

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LONDON (AP):

LORENZO MUSETTI threw his head back and spread his arms wide to celebrate reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon, then covered his face with both hands.

His 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Taylor Fritz yesterday was a big deal, to be sure. After all, the 25th-seeded Musetti, a 22-year-old from Italy, had never made it past the third round at the All England Club – or past the fourth round at any major tournament – until this fortnight.

Now, though, comes a far tougher test: taking on Novak Djokovic.

“He probably knows, better than me, the surface and the stadium, for sure,” Musetti said with a chuckle, aware he’ll be making his Centre Court debut on Friday. “Jokes apart, he’s a legend everywhere, but especially here in Wimbledon.”

This will be Djokovic’s record-tying 13th semi-final at Wimbledon alone – equalling Roger Federer – and 49th Slam semi-final overall, extending a mark he already held. As Musetti pursues his first major championship, Djokovic seeks a 25th, including what would be an eighth at the All England Club.

Djokovic’s smooth trip through this year’s bracket was made even easier when the man he was supposed to play in the quarter-finals yesterday, Alex de Minaur, pulled out with a hip injury, hours before their match was scheduled to begin.

Musetti acknowledged he didn’t get off to an ideal start, in part because of nerves. But an early break in the second set helped alter the course of the evening.

“Immediately, I changed my mind. I changed my attitude,” he said. “And that probably made the difference.”

Playing at a sun-swathed Number-one Court against Fritz, an American who is one of the sport’s biggest servers but fell to 0-4 in major quarter-finals, Musetti managed to accumulate 13 break points and convert six.

The other semi-final Friday is defending champion Carlos Alcaraz against Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic and Musetti have played each other six times previously. Djokovic has won five of those, including a five-setter at this year’s French Open.

In the women’s quarter-finals yesterday, 2022 champion Elena Rybakina grabbed nine of the last 11 games to defeat number-21 Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2, and number-31 Barbora Krejcikova eliminated number-13 Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 7-6 (4) in a matchup between two past champions at the French Open.

The other women’s semi-final on Thursday is number-7 Jasmine Paolini of Italy against unseeded Donna Vekic of Croatia.

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