Preview: Novak Djokovic vs. Francisco Cerundolo – prediction, head-to-head, tournament so far

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Preview: Novak Djokovic vs. Francisco Cerundolo – prediction, head-to-head, tournament so far

Sports Mole previews Monday’s French Open fourth-round match between Novak Djokovic and Francisco Cerundolo, including predictions, head-to-head and their tournament so far.

Fresh from making even more Grand Slam history, Novak Djokovic continues his pursuit of French Open glory on Monday, pitting his wits against Francisco Cerundolo in round four.

The top seed emerged triumphant in a five-set classic with Lorenzo Musetti over the weekend, while his South American foe fought back from a set down to eliminate Tommy Paul in four.

Match preview

© Reuters

The clock had ticked over to 3:07am – the latest finish in the history of the tournament – by the time that Djokovic sent one final fizzing forehand return past Musetti, thereby wrapping up an epic 7-5 6-7[8] 2-6 6-3 6-0 victory after a four-hour and 29-minute battle.

The Serbian was physically spent for a large portion of the match – needing to hunch over and catch his breath on several occasions while also making a couple of fatal serve-and-volley errors – but for all of his travails in the first four sets, Djokovic closed out a historic victory with a brilliant bagel.

Now on 369 wins in Grand Slam competitions, Djokovic has equalled Roger Federer for the most singles victories at major events in the Open Era, while also posting his 36th five-set Grand Slam win, putting the 37-year-old in yet another class of his own.

There were certainly aspects of Djokovic’s third-round showing that the world number one would not have been pleased with – he failed to save any of the five break points that he faced and also struck fewer winners and hit more unforced errors than Musetti – but a 25th major coronation remains firmly in his sights.

While he may still be waiting for his first honour of 2024, the world number one has never been defeated in the fourth round of French Open and has not been eliminated at this stage of any Grand Slam event since the 2020 US Open, when he was disqualified for inadvertently hitting a ball into a line judge’s throat.

Francisco Cerundolo reacts at the Madrid Open in May 2024© Reuters

In terms of pure fourth-round Grand Slam defeats, Djokovic’s last such experience came at the 2019 US Open, leaving unfancied foe Cerundolo well and truly up against it to deny him a quarter-final showdown versus either Taylor Fritz or Casper Ruud.

The Argentinian 23rd seed did not drop a set in either of his opening battles against Yannick Hanfmann or Filip Misolic before coming unstuck against Paul in their opening exchange, but he quickly rectified those mistakes to prevail 3-6 6-3 6-3 6-2 in two hours and 55 minutes.

Five double faults and 47 unforced errors did not help Cerundolo’s cause, but the 25-year-old was unrelenting on return and brought up a staggering 19 break points – converting five of them – to reach round four at Roland Garros for the second successive year.

Cerundolo’s best Grand Slam result to date came on the Parisian clay in 2023, where he was cruelly denied a place in the quarter-finals by Holger Rune in a five-set spectacular, before coincidentally sinking Paul at Eastbourne for his second ATP Tour title.

Each of Cerundolo’s previous three finals had all been fought on clay, though – the Argentine sunk Sebastian Baez at the 2022 Swedish Open to clinch his maiden top-level honour – and such specialities must be harnessed if he is to prolong Djokovic’s wait for major title number 25.

Tournament so far

Novak Djokovic:

First round: vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4 7-6[3] 6-4
Second round: vs. Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4 6-1 6-2
Third round: vs. Lorenzo Musetti 7-5 6-7[8] 2-6 6-3 6-0

Francisco Cerundolo:

First round: vs. Yannick Hanfmann 6-3 6-3 6-4
Second round: vs. Filip Misolic 6-2 7-6[2] 6-0
Third round: vs. Tommy Paul 3-6 6-3 6-3 6-2

Head To Head

Djokovic and Cerundolo will be crossing paths for the first time on Monday, and the two right-handed foes stack up pretty evenly physically, although the 6ft 2in Serbian just edges the height metric over the 6ft 1in Argentine.

With 14 triumphs and six losses to his name in 2024, Djokovic’s win rate of 70% also trumps that of Cerundolo, who has prevailed in 13 and lost 15 of his battles for a percentage of 44.8%.

Both renowned for their magnificent returning, the pair rank in the top 10 ATP players for first-serve return points won over the past year, although Djokovic’s 55% behind second serves is unparalleled across the men’s game.

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We say: Djokovic to win in four sets

Still not operating at 100% physically, Djokovic should not have it all his own way against a returning aficionado in Cerundolo, although the Argentine will need to be a touch more clinical than he was against Paul to pull off a monumental scalp.

Djokovic’s exceptional defence should put paid to that idea, though, and even though it may not be plain sailing, the 24-time Grand Slam winner should navigate his way into the quarters.

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