Novak Djokovic is ecstatic after the win. (Roland Garros/Twitter)
Novak Djokovic is ecstatic after the win. (Roland Garros/Twitter)

French Open 2021: Djokovic fights off Berrettini to set up Nadal semi-final

  • A fired-up 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 Rafael Nadal.
Reuters | , Paris
PUBLISHED ON JUN 10, 2021 07:38 AM IST

A fired-up 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 Rafael Nadal.

The 34-year-old 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.

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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 were obliged to leave. Djokovic led 3-2 at the time and when battle resumed he suffered a nasty fall, grazing his hand, but sensed his chance when Berrettini served at 5-6.

The Italian ninth seed, saved a couple of match points, the second with a sizzling forehand winner, after which Djokovic screamed angrily at his entourage and kicked an advertising board in disgust. He got the job done at the third time of asking when Berrettini netted at the end of another high-octane baseline exchange. Djokovic, eyes bulging, then roared again towards his box, the sound echoing around an empty Court Philippe Chatrier.

It was a manic ending and showed exactly how much Djokovic wants a second French Open title, having claimed his first in 2016 to complete his career Slam. 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.

Djokovic said booking another clash with Nadal had not been behind his extraordinary reaction at the end. "This match had it all: falls, crowd, break," he told reporters. "It was a lot of intensity. I just felt under tension the entire time and missed some chances to end it in three. "It was just super, super stressful to constantly be under pressure... the reaction in the end was just me liberating that tension that was building up for the entire match."

Top seed Djokovic was given a mighty scare against Italian teenager 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. But Berrettini dug his heels in throughout the third set even though he could not fashion a break point.

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