Struggling with an elbow injury, Novak Djokovic played only 12 matches between Wimbledon 2017 and Rome 2018. After a slow start to the 2018 season, Djokovic reached the Rome Masters semi-final and hoped for more at Roland Garros. Novak scored four victories to advance into the quarter-final in Paris, and he was the favorite against world no. 72 Marco Cecchinato. Marco had 12 ATP wins before Roland Garros and none at Majors. Still, that was hardly an obstacle for him, as he advanced into the last eight and stunned Novak 6-3, 7-6, 1-6, 7-6 in three hours and 26 minutes for a place in the semis. Marco became the lowest-ranked semi-finalist in Paris since Andrei Medvedev in 1999, playing on a high level in the crucial moments and overcoming a deficit in set number four to avoid a decider. Novak restored the order in the third set and built a 5-2 advantage in the fourth. Still, he failed to bring it home and force the decider, where he would have been the favorite.
Djokovic grabbed six breaks and scored four points more than his rival thanks to that third set. It was not enough to keep him safe, though, getting broken four times and dropping both tie breaks to hit the exit door. The Italian defended 11 out of 17 break points and fended off three set points in the fourth set’s tie break to emerge at the top and start a massive celebration. Cecchinato produced 54 winners and 41 unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and mixing up his game with flat strokes, drop shots and slices that kept Novak out of his comfort zone. Marco made a strong start and dropped only five points behind the initial stroke in the opener. Novak defended two break chances in the encounter’s second game before giving his serve away in game four to fall 3-1 behind. Cecchinato served well in the remaining games and claimed the opener 6-3 with a powerful serve after only 34 minutes. Djokovic received a massage on his neck ahead of set number two and found a way to be more competitive.
Marco Cecchinato defeated Novak Djokovic at the 2018 Roland Garros.
Cecchinato opened a 2-0 gap before Djokovic broke back at love in game four to gain a boost. The Serb defended two break chances in the seventh game to remain on the positive side before creating three set points on the return at 6-5. The Italian repelled them with brave hitting and opened a 5-4 gap in the tie break after a drop shot winner. Marco clinched the breaker 7-5 after a service winner to open a massive two sets to love advantage after an hour and 39 minutes. With no room for errors, Djokovic raised his level in the third set and claimed it 6-1 to extend the battle. The Serb received a medical timeout on his right leg ahead of set number four and forged a 3-0 advantage after only eight minutes. Novak lost only three points in the opening four service games and built a 5-2 lead thanks to an early break. Standing on the edge of losing the set, Marco broke back from 30-0 down at 3-5 when Novak served for the set, cracking a forehand down the line winner and gathering a boost.
Djokovic saved a break point after an extended rally in game 11, and Cecchinato held at 15 in the next one to introduce a tie break. Marco opened a 3-0 lead with a forehand down the line winner before Novak seized the following four points to overcome the deficit and move in front. The Italian pulled a mini-break back in the eighth point for 4-4 before the Serb locked the result at 5-5 with a routine winner at the net. Cecchinato earned a match point at 6-5, and Djokovic saved it with a stunning volley to get the crowd off their seats. Novak landed another volley winner for a 7-6 lead, and he squandered a set point with a loose backhand. Djokovic’s second set point came and gone at 8-7 after Cecchinato’s forehand drive-volley winner, and the Italian defended the third at 8-9 after the Serb’s terrible forehand. Novak saved the second match point at 9-10 with a forehand down the line winner and the third at 10-11. Djokovic sent a forehand wide in the 23rd point, and Cecchinato converted his fourth match point at 12-11 after a backhand return winner.