PARIS – An enthusiastic Novak Djokovic repelled a rousing comeback by Italian Matteo Berrettini to claim a 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5) 7-5 victory on Wednesday to set up an appetizing semi-final showdown with the defense. champion Rafa Nadal.
The 34-year-old released a series of terrifying roars after completing a victory that at one time seemed like a formality, but grew increasingly tense as Berrettini threw the kitchen sink at the Serbian, who becomes the second man to reach 40 Grand Slam semifinals. finals after Roger Federer.
It was a spectacular conclusion to a match that was watched by 5,000 fans until the middle of the fourth set when the Paris COVID-19 curfew meant the crowd was forced to leave.
Djokovic was leading 3-2 at the time and when the battle resumed he suffered a nasty knockdown, brushing his hand, but felt his chance when Berrettini served at 5-6.
The ninth-seeded Italian saved a couple of match points, the second with a fiery forehand, after which Djokovic angrily yelled at his entourage and kicked a billboard in disgust.
He did the job the third time asking when Berrettini scored at the end of another high-octane baseline trade. Djokovic, wide-eyed, roared back into his box and the sound echoed through an empty Court Philippe Chatrier.
It was a manic ending and showed exactly how much Djokovic wants a second French Open title, having obtained his first in 2016 to complete his career.
Since then, Nadal has been unbeatable on Parisian soil, extending his total record to 13 titles and counting, the most recent last October when he thrashed Djokovic in the final.
Djokovic said booking another meeting with Nadal had not been the cause of his extraordinary reaction at the end.
“This match had it all: falls, crowd, rest,” he told reporters. “It was a lot of intensity. I felt under tension the whole time and missed a few chances to finish it in three.
“It was super, super stressful to be constantly under pressure … the reaction in the end was that I released that tension that was building up throughout the game.”
Top seed Djokovic got a big scare against Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti on Monday, losing the first two sets, before rolling over to victory.
It was much easier, initially, against Berrettini when he broke for a 3-1 lead in the first set.
Berrettini was playing well but failed to convert a break point when he was down 4-2 and after that the match went one way as Djokovic served a clinical masterclass.
But Berrettini dug in his heels throughout the third set even though he couldn’t create a break point.
With the first crowd of the tournament night session behind the 25-year-old, Berrettini extended Djokovic to a tiebreaker and then increased power, bombarding a pair of aces and some venomous forehand.
However, Djokovic had the match on his racket at 5-4, but a couple of unusual errors gave Berrettini a set point that he converted with another forehand.
Energized, Berrettini looked increasingly dangerous, but the drama came to a halt as fans left, one that remained defiant until he was forced to leave his seat.
After a 25-minute delay, in which the players left the court, the games went with service, although it was not at all comfortable for Djokovic, who was flying face down to the ground after a bad foot.
The dust was wiped off and the job done, 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 faces Nadal for the 58th time in their irresistible professional rivalry on Friday. .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS To get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer and more than 70 other titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download from 4am and share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.
For comments, complaints or inquiries, Contact Us.