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DJOKOVIC FIGHTS OFF BERRETTINI TO SET UP NADAL SEMI-FINAL
Novak Djokovic – Photo Credit: Wikimedia
Novak Djokovic repelled a stirring fightback by Italian, Matteo Berrettini to claim a 6-3 6-2 6-7(5) 7-5 victory on Wednesday to set up a mouth-watering semi-final showdown with defending champion Rafa Nadal.
Djokovic bellowed a series of frightening roars after completing a victory that at one stage looked like a formality but became increasingly fraught as Berrettini threw the kitchen sink at the Serb who becomes only the second man to reach 40 Grand Slam semi-finals after Roger Federer.
It was a spectacular conclusion to a match that was watched by 5,000 fans until midway through the fourth set when Paris’s COVID-19 curfew meant the crowd had to leave.
Djokovic led 3-2 at the time and when battle resumed he suffered a bad fall, grazing his hand, but sensed his chance when Berrettini served at 5-6.
It was a bizarre ending and showed exactly how much Djokovic wants a second French Open title after having claimed his first in 2016. Since then Nadal has been unbeatable on the Parisian dirt, extending his record total to 13 titles and counting, the last coming last October when he thrashed Djokovic in the final.
Top seed Djokovic was given a mighty scare against Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti on Monday, losing the first two sets, before steamrolling to victory.
It was much more straightforward, initially, against Berrettini as he broke for a 3-1 lead in the first set. Berrettini was playing well but he failed to convert a break point when trailing 4-2 and after that the match was one-way traffic as Djokovic served up a clinical masterclass.
Djokovic had the match on his racket at 5-4, however, but a couple of uncharacteristic errors gave Berrettini a set point that he converted with another thudding forehand.
Energised, Berrettini looked increasingly dangerous but the drama was halted as the fans departed. After a 25-minute delay, in which the players left Court Philippe Chatrier, games went with serve although it was far from comfortable for Djokovic who went flying face down into the dirt after being wrong-footed.
He dusted himself down and finished the job but the 18-time Grand Slam champion knew he had been in a tough battle and will need to find an even higher level when he locks horns with Nadal for the 58th time in their compelling career rivalry.