PARIS (Reuters) - Lorenzo Musetti's body ultimately let him down against Novak Djokovic but for two glorious sets the 19-year-old Italian lit up Court Philippe Chatrier with a performance of style and substance that left the world number one reeling.
Musetti, appearing in his first Grand Slam main draw, outplayed Djokovic in key moments to win two tiebreaks and move to within a set of a seismic shock.
Then it all went wrong as Djokovic roared back to take the next two sets 6-1 6-0 and was 4-0 ahead in the fifth when Musetti decided he could not go on.
Although it was a crushing anti-climax, Musetti has announced himself on the world stage in Paris, just as his 19-year-old compatriot Jannik Sinner did last year.
"For me was a fantastic experience," Musetti, who owns a graceful single-handed backhand that packs a mighty punch.
"I was playing my best tennis for sure. I have never played like today. The first two sets were really long, like two hours.
"Of course, I'm a little bit disappointed, but I played against the number one in the world, and I took the first two sets. Then I had some problems with my physical part.
"I think I have to work there."
Musetti, a former world junior number one, arrived with an ATP ranking of 76, but looks destined to rise rapidly.
"I took away a lot of feelings, a lot of emotions," he said of his French Open experience. "Now I know how I can play, how far I am from the biggest in the tour, like Novak, so I know that if I play good I can stay at this level."
Musetti will now set his sights on Wimbledon where his flowing game should top up his growing fan base.
"I will try to reach the second week like here," he said. "But I'm not promising anything. Let's see, and then we will talk."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)