Djokovic comes through another French Open epic

Defending champion Novak Djokovic showed his supreme powers of recovery once again to come through a five-set marathon against Francisco Cerundolo and reach the French Open quarter-finals.

Serbia’s Djokovic, 37, looked hampered by injury before winning 6-1 5-7 3-6 7-5 6-3 against Argentine 23rd seed Cerundolo.

For the second time in three days, the 24-time major champion fought back from a two-sets-to-one deficit.

The fourth-round match with Cerundolo started about 4pm local time on Monday, little over 36 hours after his previous contest against Lorenzo Musetti finished at 3:07am on Sunday morning.

But Djokovic still had the mental and physical resilience to win another gruelling encounter lasting four hours and 39 minutes.

The top seed broke out into a beaming smile when he sealed victory, pointing to his chest and then to the court in celebration.

"Three or four times I was points away from losing this match and thank you to my opponent," said Djokovic.

"He deserves so much applause that's for sure. I'm not sure how I won this match."

It was Djokovic's 370th victory at a Grand Slam tournament, putting him clear of his great rival Roger Federer.

Djokovic will face the winner of Norwegian seventh seed Casper Ruud, who the Serb beat in last year’s final, and American 12th seed Taylor Fritz in the last eight.

How Djokovic defied logic yet again

Write off Djokovic at your peril. So many times he has looked on the brink, so many times he has produced a logic-defying victory.

But even after seeing countless comebacks over the years, the manner in which he beat Cerundolo - at this stage of his career - was still remarkable.

Djokovic arrived at Roland Garros on the back of a turbulent season, having played below his lofty expectations and not reached a final, as well as parting ways with long-time coach Goran Ivanisevic.

While he had moved in a "positive direction" after straight-set wins in his opening two matches, the exertions of beating Musetti led to questions about his shape against Cerundolo.

Finishing in the early hours also reopened a long-running discussion about why tennis finishes so late and the impact on the welfare of the players.

Unsurprisingly, Djokovic looked tetchy and uncomfortable from the start.

Before the match he was wearing tape behind his right knee and needed treatment on the same leg early in the second set, laying out on the court as the physio assessed him.

Djokovic was heard telling the physio that he had "screwed up" his knee, adding: "I'm slipping and sliding all the time."

He was given what appeared to be painkillers and called the physio to his chair several more times over the rest of the match.

Djokovic was breathing heavily and limping around the court as he looked set to suffer his earliest Roland Garros exit since a third-round defeat in 2009.

It would also have been his earliest exit at a Grand Slam tournament since the 2020 US Open – when he was defaulted after accidentally hitting a ball at a line judge.

But, after going a break down in the fourth and trailing 4-2, he fought back to level at 4-4 and struck again when Cerundolo served to stay in the set.

Now moving better and acting less demonstratively, Djokovic broke for 2-0 in the decider and it looked like he could race away to victory.

Cerundolo was not finished as he aimed to reach his first major quarter-final, though.

The 25-year-old Argentine instantly put the set back on serve, but Djokovic exerted more pressure to break again for 5-3 and serve out another memorable win.