Emotional Vingegaard edges Pogacar in Tour de France battle

Lorenzo Musetti reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon and will meet Novak Djokovic

LONDON: Lorenzo Musetti threw his head back and spread his arms in celebration of reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon before covering his face with both hands.

His 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Taylor Fritz on Wednesday was certainly a big deal. After all, 25th-seeded Musetti, a 22-year-old Italian, had never made it past the third round at the All England Club – or the fourth round at any major – going into this fortnight.

But now comes a much tougher test: dealing with Novak Djokovic.

“He probably knows, better than me, the surface and the ballpark, for sure,” Musetti said with a laugh, aware that he will make his center court debut on Friday. “All jokes aside, he’s a legend everywhere, but especially here at Wimbledon.”

It will be Djokovic’s record-tying 13th Wimbledon semi-final – equaling Roger Federer – and 49th Slam semi-final overall, extending the mark he already held. With Musetti going for his first major championship, Djokovic is aiming for a 25th, including what would be eighth at the All England Club.

Djokovic’s smooth journey through this year’s tournament was made even easier when the man he was due to play in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, Alex de Minaur, was injured hours before the match was scheduled to start.

Musetti was forced to work for his place in the final four: His 3.5-hour win over 13th-seeded Fritz was his 37th at the All England Club this year at five, the most at any Grand Slam tournament.

Musetti admitted he didn’t get off to an ideal start, partly due to nerves. But an early break in the second set helped turn the tide of the evening.

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

Musetti’s son, Ludovico, was born in March and he said on Wednesday that it has helped him get back into his sport and try not to “throw away matches”.

“Instead of me teaching him, he teaches me. …Having a child makes you think a lot,” Musetti said. “I feel more mature on the field, more mature off the field and more mature as a player, as a father, as a person.”

Playing on the sun-drenched No. 1 court against Fritz, an American who is one of the sport’s greatest servers but went 0-4 in the big quarterfinals, Musetti managed to collect 13 break points and convert six.

With Queen Camilla, wife of King Charles III, in the stands and joining the fans in doing the wave, Musetti did a lot more to vary his moves — a drop here, a lob there, a lot of chops — than Fritz.

“I just felt like it took a lot to finish the point,” Fritz said.

Djokovic underwent knee surgery less than a month before the start of the game at the All England Club. But despite the restrictions on movement, the 37-year-old Djokovic has lost only two sets so far – facing a qualifier in the first round, a wild card in the second and only one seeded No. 15 to Holger Rune.

Instead of taking on No. 9 de Minaur on Wednesday, Djokovic will get three full days off before meeting Musetti. Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz plays Daniil Medvedev in the other semi-final match on Friday.

Djokovic and Musetti have played six times in the past. Djokovic has won five of them, including a five-setter at this year’s French Open that ended after three in the morning. It was in the next match of Djokovic in Paris that he tore the meniscus in his right knee.

“We know each other pretty well. It’s always been a huge fight, so I’m expecting a big, big fight. It’s going to be one of the toughest challenges on the tour,” Musetti said, “but I’m an ambitious guy and I like to be challenged.”

In Wednesday’s women’s quarter-finals, 2022 champion Elena Rybakina won nine of her last 11 matches to beat 21st-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2 and Barbora Krejcikova ousted 31st-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 7-6 (4) in a match between two former French Open champions.

The other women’s semifinal on Thursday is Jazmine Paolini of Italy against unseeded Donna Vekic of Croatia.

Kazakhstan’s Rybakina ended the victory with a seventh ace and improved to 19-2 in four appearances at Wimbledon.

“I definitely have an aggressive style of play,” Rybakina said. “I have a huge serve, so that’s a big advantage.”

Krejčíková won her first Grand Slam title on red clay at Roland Garros in 2021, but the 28-year-old Czech has never put together a five-match winning streak on grass.

De Minaur’s departure is the latest due to injury in Week 2. The hip problem came right at the end of his win against Arthur Fils on Monday.

De Minaur said he heard a pop and knew something was wrong.

He underwent medical tests on Tuesday which revealed the extent of the problem but tried to train on Wednesday morning in the hope of making his first Wimbledon quarter-final.

“It was the biggest game of my career,” de Minaur said, “so I wanted to do whatever it took to play.”

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