Life of Pablo: Spaniard gets second Djokovic date in busy four weeks

 - Ravi Ubha

No.17 seed Carreno Busta full of self-belief ahead of quarter-final meeting with the world No.1

Pablo Carreno Busta, Roland Garros 2020, fourth round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Pablo Carreno Busta has had an eventful last month and a half and it wasn’t lost on him, either, after he ended Daniel Altmaier’s breakout fortnight to reach the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros despite suffering from a dodgy stomach.

“Yeah, was a crazy few weeks, no?” said the 29-year-old native of Gijon in northwestern Spain.

The timeline went a little like this: Winning the doubles title at the Western & Southern Open in New York alongside Alex de Minaur and landing in the semi-finals at the US Open in singles prior to seeing Alexander Zverev storm back from a two-set deficit.

His lone clay-court tussle ahead of Roland-Garros came against none other than the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, at the Italian Open as the draw gods did him no favours.

Now, Carreno Busta is through to the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros for the first time since 2017.

“In the bubble in the US, four, five weeks there, playing matches every day, every two days. A lot of pressure because I was playing the last rounds,” said the 18th-ranked Carreno Busta.

“Then I go Rome. I have two days to be ready. Was impossible to try to beat Rafa on clay without practicing there, with the jet-lag and everything.

“Then I came back to Spain. I try to recover a little bit, mentally and physically. Then I practice two, three days, and I come to Paris.

“At the beginning of the tournament I wasn't on my best level because I didn't practice enough. But during the tournament, I’m feeling comfortable on court, I'm feeling really good, playing a really good level.”

One rather noteworthy addition to his stay in New York included a fourth-round duel against Novak Djokovic.

Pablo Carreno Busta, Roland Garros 2020, fourth round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

By now, even many non-tennis fans will know that Carreno Busta stood on the other side of the net when Djokovic was defaulted for hitting a ball that inadvertently felled a line judge.

They might forget, though, that Carreno Busta led by a break at 6-5 when play was halted after saving three straight set points serving at 4-5 with scintillating tennis.

And guess who Carreno Busta meets Wednesday in his second Roland-Garros quarter-final and second consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final?

Yes, it’s the world No.1 again.

The world No.1 who, aside from that default, hasn’t lost a single match in 2020.

In keeping with his mild mannered character, Carreno Busta didn’t offer words of bravado ahead of the rematch.

Yet he is quietly confident, a trait surely needed if he wants to pull off, arguably, one of the biggest upsets in Roland-Garros history.

As a marker of his good play this Roland-Garros, the 17th seed upset compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut — who has troubled Djokovic — in the third round.

Carreno Busta possesses a baseline game similar to Bautista Agut.

“I don’t see myself inferior to anyone if I am 100 per cent,” he said. “I have my opportunities, but Novak has been playing well. He won in Rome, he is playing his matches well at Roland-Garros. At least I hope I can play a good game.”

Will what happened at Flushing Meadows enter into his thoughts?

“No, I don't think it’s coming into my mind because is something that normally never happens,” he said. “Of course, I'm not thinking about (if it) happens again. I just thinking about do my best, try to do a good match, have the opportunities to be close on the score.

“This is a tough situation for him. I know that he didn't want to do this. I think Novak is a great player, a great person. Sometimes we cannot control our emotions. We have to do it. Sometimes is not easy. A mistake.”

Pablo Carreno Busta, Roland Garros 2020, fourth round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Djokovic, who won their three previous match-ups, issued compliments of his own earlier on Monday and said the heavy conditions in Paris could boost his opponent. 

“Maybe these kinds of conditions also fit him nicely because the ball doesn't bounce too high, he plays quite flat from both corners,” said the Serb.

“He actually likes slower surface. Similar to Bautista, he waits for the opponent's mistake, but he can also come in, step in, play backhand down-the-line. He's a very complete player.”

Carreno Busta dealt with nausea facing Altmaier, not the first player to experience stomach issues in the last few days.

He took a tablet at the end of the second set and adjusted by shortening the points, with aplomb, to advance in straight sets.

“Feeling like I did on (Monday), I have no chance against him,” he said. “I need to recover.”

If he does and manages to oust Djokovic, it would top the list in his busy, fruitful spell since tennis’ restart.