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Lorenzo Musetti sinks Taylor Fritz in five sets to set up Djokovic clash

<span>Lorenzo Musetti celebrates after edging out Taylor Fritz in a five-set quarter-final.</span><span>Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters</span>
Lorenzo Musetti celebrates after edging out Taylor Fritz in a five-set quarter-final.Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

The tattoo along the right ribcage of Lorenzo Musetti reads Il meglio deve ancora venire: the best is yet to come. At this rate the 22-year-old from the small Tuscan town of Carrara might not be waiting much longer.

The 25th-seeded Italian, who had never been past the fourth round at a major until this week, won 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 against Taylor Fritz in a ­rollercoaster ­quarter‑final on Wednesday afternoon. He advanced into the semi-finals where he will face the second-seeded Novak Djokovic, the seven-time Wimbledon champion who reached the last four by walkover following Alex de Minaur’s injury withdrawal.

“I have no words,” said Musetti, only the fourth Italian man to reach the last four at the All England Club after Nicola Pietrangeli (1960), ­Matteo Berrettini (2021) and Jannik Sinner (2023). “I kept the best for the end.”

Playing on a sun-splashed No 1 Court packed to capacity, two of the in-form men of the grass-court season traded hellfire over nearly three and a half hours before a rollicking crowd that included Queen Camilla, who traded her seat in the royal box to do the wave with onlookers during changeovers.

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Brimming with confidence after rallying from two sets down to beat the fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev on Monday, the 13th-seeded Fritz overcame an early wobble in fighting off a pair of break points in his opening service game, but it was Musetti who blinked first when he was broken in the fourth game with a couple of careless errors. The American served out the set comfortably from there in 36 minutes behind a booming serve that clocked as high as 135mph.

After the start of the second set was delayed for several minutes as medical staff attended to an ailing spectator, Musetti was broken in a marathon first game. But Fritz, who over the first 10 days of the tournament had been the toughest man to break in the field, was unable to consolidate as he was broken for only the second time in 82 games.

The American ­levelled with a break in the fifth game only to fall behind in the eighth, troubled by Musetti’s shrewd counterattacking and change of pace. The ­Italian was broken at love while serving for the set in a rare betrayal of nerve, but forced a tie-break from there and snatched an early mini-break that proved the difference.

Fritz, 26, was broken to open the third and became impatient in the rallies. Overeager to shorten the points and looking for outright winners, he was broken to love while Musetti raised his level showcasing his one-handed backhand. By then the visibly frustrated Fritz’s serve was in outright rebellion, his first-serve percentage dropping to 25% in the third from 79% in the opening two sets.

The American appeared to steady himself at the outset of the fourth, defending far better and forcing a break chance in the fourth game which Musetti erased with a highlight-reel lob winner. Fritz showed great fight in holding from love-40 in the fifth game, saving four break points in the game then breaking Musetti in the eighth as unforced errors began to creep into the Italian’s forehand. Moments later he held to force a fifth set.

The seesaw battle took a final turn when Musetti painted the sideline with an inside-out forehand to break Fritz early in the decider. The Italian coolly consolidated with a love hold to move within sight of the finish line. Once he broke again with a forehand passing winner for 4-0, the match was a handshake away.

Quarter-final appearances by Musetti, Sinner and the women’s seventh seed Jasmine Paolini marked the first time three players from Italy had reached the last eight at the same grand slam tournament since 1948. The result on Wednesday ensured this improbable Italian renaissance will continue.

It won’t get any easier from here. Musetti has lost five of six previous meetings against Djokovic, the lone win coming on clay last year in the last 16 at the Monte Carlo Masters.

“He probably knows better than me the surface and the stadium than me for sure,” Musetti said. “[Our matches] have always been huge fights, so I expect a big, big fight. I think it’s one of the toughest matches on tour. But I’m an ambitious guy and I like to be challenged.”