Musetti outlasts Fritz for first Grand Slam semi

WIMBLEDON, England — Lorenzo Musetti threw his head back and spread his arms wide to celebrate reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal 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 on Wednesday was a big deal, to be sure. After all, the 25th-seeded Musetti, a 22-year-old from Italy, never had 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 will be making his Centre Court debut Friday. “Jokes apart, he’s a legend everywhere, but especially here in Wimbledon.”

It will be Djokovic’s record-tying 13th semifinal at Wimbledon alone, equaling Roger Federer, and 49th Slam semifinal overall, extending a mark he already held. As Musetti pursues his first major championship, Djokovic seeks a 25th, including what would be his 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 quarterfinals Wednesday, Alex de Minaur, pulled out with a hip injury hours before their match was scheduled to begin.

Instead of going up against No. 9 de Minaur on Wednesday, Djokovic will get three full days off before meeting Musetti on Friday. The other men’s semifinal will be defending champion Carlos Alcaraz against Daniil Medvedev; they advanced Tuesday.

Musetti was forced to work for his spot in the final four: His 3½-hour victory over the 13th-seeded Fritz was the 37th five-setter at Wimbledon this year, the most at any Grand Slam tournament.

He acknowledged he didn’t get off to an ideal start but added, “I played my best tennis at the end. I kept the best for the end.”

Playing at a sun-swathed No. 1 Court against Fritz, an American who is one of the sport‘s biggest servers but fell to 0-4 in major quarterfinals, Musetti managed to accumulate 13 break points and convert six. The outcome-determining break came on a forehand winner by Musetti that made it 2-0 in the last set; moments later, another break made it 4-0.

Musetti’s first break came early in the second set, and that, he said, altered the course of the evening.

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

There was not a ton of variety from either player; they were mainly content to trade groundstrokes from the baseline. But Musetti did manage to accrue points with effective drop shots, occasionally following them with successful passing attempts or lobs.

Queen Camilla, the wife of King Charles III, was in the stands and joined fans in doing the wave.

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 that concluded after 3 a.m. It was in Djokovic’s following match in Paris that he tore the meniscus in his right knee.

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

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