PARIS: A competitor lambasted the French Open as “one big circus” on Thursday as soggy weather once again came back to exasperate players seeking a foothold in the semifinals of the rain-hit claycourt Major.
Novak Djokovic was lucky to escape being defaulted and Austrian tyro Dominic Thiem provided plenty of entertainment as they finally caught up with the bottom half of the men’s draw by setting up a cross-generational semi-final.
With Andy Murray and defending champion Stan Wawrinka enjoying a welcome rest day after booking their last-four showdown a day earlier, world No 1 Djokovic was back on court for a third day running and again had to dodge the showers as he sealed a 6-3 7-5 6-3 win over a fuming Tomas Berdych.
It was a shame that only a handful of shivering spectators turned up on Court Suzanne Lenglen to watch Thiem’s racket skills. The 22-year-old reached the last four of a Major for the first time with a 4-6 7-6(7) 6-4 6-1 win over Belgium’s David Goffin.
Serena Williams was caught up in a cold front for more than an hour as she dropped her first set of the tournament and came within two games of defeat before ramming home her title credentials with a 5-7 6-4 6-1 win over Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.
“I didn’t think I was gonna win that in the second set,” the 21-time Grand Slam champion said after booking a semi-final with Dutch outsider Kiki Bertens, who beat Swiss eighth seed Timea Bacsinszky 7-5 6-2.
A week of wet weather and chilly temperatures — with the mercury topping out at 14 degrees Celsius on Thursday — has robbed the tournament of its usual joie de vivre. Hence it was little wonder that the smallest of incidents could tip players over the edge.
Djokovic was fortunate that a moment of petulance midway through the third set did not scupper his chances of winning the only Slam title missing from his collection.
The top seed admitted he was lucky he did not injure a linesman after he slammed his racket to the ground and it went flying into the baseline hoardings. Had it hit anyone, it would have been an automatic default. But Djokovic’s momentary rage was nothing compared to how angry Berdych felt a few games later.
The Czech seventh seed lost his cool when Australian official Wayne McEwen ordered play to be halted after Djokovic grumbled about the misty conditions. As the Serbian sauntered off court, Berdych shouted: “This is a circus. An absolute circus. We’ve been playing two and half sets like that.”
The Czech had a point.
Following Monday’s complete washout, Berdych and Djokovic were among several competitors who were ordered to play their fourth-round matches through drizzle on Tuesday as organisers tried to clear a huge backlog of matches. Hence as far as Berdych was concerned, Thursday’s seven-minute break seemed rather farcical.