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Preview: Novak Djokovic vs. Lorenzo Musetti - prediction, form guide, head-to-head

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Monte Carlo Masters third-round match between Novak Djokovic and Lorenzo Musetti, including predictions, form and head-to-head record.

World No.1 Novak Djokovic continues his quest for Monte Carlo Masters glory when he takes on Lorenzo Musetti in the third round on Thursday.

While Djokovic kick-started his clay-court season in comfortable fashion with a second-round win over Roman Safiullin, Musetti battled past Arthur Fils to set up his second clash in as many years against the Serbian top seed.

Match preview

Novak Djokovic reacts at the Monte-Carlo Masters on April 9, 2024© Reuters

After opting to pull out of last month's Miami Open to balance his schedule, a refreshed Novak Djokovic made an emphatic start at the Monte-Carlo Masters with a 6-1 6-2 victory over Russian 41st seed Roman Safiullin on Tuesday.

The Serbian successfully broke Safiullin's serve on three occasions in the opening set, and a further two breaks in the second set was enough to advance after one hour and 10 minutes and reach the third round in the Principality for the 14th time.

Competing as the oldest world No.1 in the history of the PIF ATP Rankings, 36-year-old Djokovic has acknowledged his "great start" but has encouraged the tennis world to "not get ahead of ourselves and put the hopes too high" on his return; his primary aim is to work on maintaining his "rhythm and focus" ahead of Thursday's encounter with Musetti.

Djokovic's victory on Tuesday was his first match with new coach Nenad Zimonjic guiding him from the stands following his split with long-time tutor Goran Ivanisevic. It was also his first match since suffering a shock third-round elimination by 20-year-old Italian qualifier Luca Nardi at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

With nine wins and three defeats to his name in the 2024 season, Djokovic will hope to avoid another exit at the hands of an Italian in the form of Musetti, who beat the 98-time titlist in three sets at this stage of last year's tournament.

Lorenzo Musetti reacts at the French Open on June 2, 2023© Reuters

Musetti exploited a weak serving performance from Djokovic and broke the Serbian eight times en route to a hard-fought two-hour and 54-minute triumph - the biggest win of his career - at last year's Monte-Carlo Masters, before losing out to compatriot Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals.

The 22-year-old has since won seven and lost 10 of his 17 matches in 2024, following up his last-16 straight-sets eliminations to Nuno Borges and Carlos Alcaraz at the Estoril Open and Indian Wells respectively with victories over Taylor Fritz and Arthur Fils in Monte Carlo.

Musetti earned his 100th tour-level victory in confident fashion on Sunday when he beat Fritz 6-4 6-4 in the first round, before fighting off a late charge from 19-year-old Fils to win 6-3 7-5 in Tuesday's second-round contest.

Ranked 24th in the world, Musetti believes that he played "one of the best matches of the season" against Fils and hopes to carry his positive momentum into his reunion with Djokovic as he eyes a place in the quarter-finals for the second year running.

Tournament so far

Novak Djokovic:

Second round: vs. Roman Safiullin 6-1 6-2

Lorenzo Musetti:

First round: vs. Taylor Fritz 6-4 6-4
Second round: vs. Arthur Fils 6-3 7-5

Head To Head

Roland Garros (2021) - Last 16: Djokovic wins 6-7[7] 6-7[2] 6-1 6-0 4-0 (A)
Dubai Open (2022) - Round of 32: Djokovic wins 6-3 6-3
Paris Masters (2022) - Quarter-finals: Djokovic wins 6-0 6-3
Monte-Carlo Masters (2023) - Last 16: Musetti wins 4-6 7-5 6-4

Djokovic and Musetti will clash racquets for the fifth time in all tournaments on Thursday, and while the former has three wins under his belt across the four previous meetings, Musetti came out on top - as previously mentioned - the last time that they faced off in the third round of last year's Monte-Carlo Masters.

In his first encounter with Musetti, Djokovic found himself two sets down at Roland Garros, but he breezed to victory in the next two sets to draw level before his Italian counterpart was forced to retire with cramps midway through the final set.

Djokovic then claimed two comfortable wins in straight sets at both the Dubai Open and Paris Masters in 2022, before Musetti got his revenge in admirable fashion five months later, claiming an "emotional" three-set triumph to reach his first quarter-final at the Monte-Carlo Masters.

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We say: Djokovic to win in two sets

Djokovic will not take Musetti lightly considering his strong start to this year's Monte Carlo Masters and his previous victory over the Serb at this stage of the 2023 tournament.

However, the prospect of Musetti producing another heavy-hitting performance seems slim against a refreshed and fired-up Djokovic, who intends to 'deliver his best game' and is confident of avoiding another upset this time around.

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