Djokovic driven to master Musetti

 - Alex Sharp

The world No.1 has soared into a record 12th successive fourth-round showing at Roland-Garros

Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2021, third round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Novak Djokovic and Lewis Hamilton have plenty in common.

The world No.1 and the reigning Formula 1 world champion continue to rewrite history within their sports.

Djokovic has lapped all his opponents thus far, racing into the second week without dropping a set to book a last-16 encounter with 'Next Gen' sensation Lorenzo Musetti.

It was Ricardas Berankis’ turn to have another go just eight months on from losing to Djokovic in the second round here. The Lithuanian claimed just five games back in October; on Saturday he added one more in a 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 demolition job by the top seed.

The dominance of Djokovic prompted 1991 and 1992 champion Jim Courier to make an apt analogy during commentary on British television.

“It’s like the dominance of Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes team. Berankis is a great driver, he maximises everything under the hood. But Novak Djokovic is driving a completely different race car,” suggested the American.

“Berankis can’t do the same things. On the same track, he can’t race the same. Novak can drive how he wants.”

It was a comparison that delighted Djokovic.

“Well, I'm honoured to be compared to Lewis. I respect Lewis and everything he does in his career, but also, off the court with his activism. Something that truly inspires me and a lot of athletes,” hailed the 18-time major winner.

“I don't want to talk about my driving next to Lewis' name. Honestly, it's embarrassing to speak about my driving, and in the same sentence with Hamilton. But I like to drive fast but I have to respect the rules, I guess," he joked. "I was never racing.

“But the analogy and the comparison of my game with an F1 car, it's definitely something that pleases me.”

The world No.1’s game was glistening; disguised backhand drop shots, trademark backhands down-the-line and the remarkable retrieval skills were all out in force.

In just 92 minutes the Serbian cruised into a record 12th successive fourth round at Roland-Garros.

Novak Djokovic, Ricardas Berankis, Roland-Garros 2021, third round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Determined to keep on hunting down more history, Djokovic is certainly doing his homework.

“Of course you can always pick certain details from the best players in the world and try to learn from what they do well. But we have a completely different game style so I'm not really trying to copy his game or anything like that on any surface,” continued the 34-year-old, quizzed on whether he takes anything from ‘Big Three’ rival Rafael Nadal’s clay game.

“I have my own authentic style I have developed over the years, but definitely when you watch him play, particularly on clay, there is always something that you can learn from. I consider myself a student of life and student of this sport regardless of the career and success that I have behind me. 

“I can always learn something not just from him but from any player that I get to see how he or she plays. And sometimes just watching videos of random players and random matches can trigger something in you that you can see, that you can observe, that you can implement later on in your game. So I try to have an open mind always when I watch tennis.”

Back in January 2019 Djokovic was the first person to greet Musetti after the Italian lifted the Australian Open boys’ title. It’s been an astounding transformation since from the 19-year-old.

The world No.1 is fully aware of the task ahead in the last 16.

“I think Lorenzo is very nice, first of all, very nice kid, very nice guy. We did hit a lot in practice. We never faced each other, but we did practise actually this season on this surface in Monte-Carlo couple of times and other tournaments. I really like how he plays,” revealed the top seed, who clearly knows the youngster’s repertoire well.

“He's got a lot of firepower from both forehand and backhand. He can play with a lot of spin. He's got a great feel, come to the net. He can play short balls, drop shots. He can flatten out his serve. He can open up with a good kick and slice. He's got really all-around game. 

“I know very much so that he is a big challenge to me. So there is no question I have to go out playing on a high level, because he will not have much to lose. I'm sure he's gonna come out and really try to play tennis of his life playing on one of the two big courts.”