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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday June 9, 2021

 
Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic powered past Matteo Berrettini in four sets to set a semi-final clash with Rafael Nadal in Paris.

Photo Source: Getty

It’s on!

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will meet for the 58th time on Friday in Paris after the World No.1 battled past Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 to advance to his eleventh semi-final at Roland-Garros.

Tennis Express

It could have been a relatively simple affair for Djokovic, but the top seed couldn’t capitalize on a two separate opportunities to close out the victory in straight sets—once in the third set with Berrettini serving at 4-4, when Djokovic had a break point, and later when Djokovic was serving with a 5-4 lead in the third-set tiebreaker, but committed back to back errors to give Berrettini set point.

Things were complicated further when fans were forced to file out of Court Philippe-Chatrier to comply with the 11 P.M. Paris curfew due to coronavirus, the players taking a long break of nearly 20 minutes before the court completely emptied out.

From there Djokovic finished what he had started, completing a victory in which his serve was never broken and which featured 44 winners against 19 unforced errors.

The Serb was pleased with his play and talked about the challenges of facing Berrettini, who was lethal with his forehand and booming serves all night, after the match.


“The match could have been also over in the third set at 5-4 and serving in the tiebreaker,” Djokovic said. “The crowd lifted him up. He was playing some really powerful tennis. Especially in the third and fourth he served tremendously strong and precise. It was just very difficult to read his serve and play someone like him.

“He's very talented. He can play well from the back of the court. He's got a lethal forehand, dropshots. Kind of don't know what's expecting you. When he's on, it's tough to play him.”

Djokovic on Facing Nadal


Conversation quickly turned to the challenge of facing Nadal for a 58th time, and a ninth time at Roland-Garros, where Djokovic has won one and lost seven against the King of Clay.

“I mean, obviously it's a well-anticipated semifinal,” he said. "A lot of people talked about that potential matchup. Here we are. We are going to face each other another time. We had some battles over the years in this court.”

Djokovic is well aware that the conditions will be different, with the tournament taking place in its normal, balmier springtime time slot rather than chilly October like last year's event, which was puched back five months due to the pandemic.

“Last year he just dominated the finals against me,” Djokovic said. “Obviously different conditions are going to be played on Friday. Then it was the case in finals of last year, so I'm hopefully going to be able to also perform at the high level than I have, especially in the first two sets in the last year's final.”

Djokovic, who has now won nine straight dating back to his title run two weeks ago in Belgrade, believes he is finding the level he will need to face the greatest challenge in tennis.


“The quality and the level of tennis that I've been playing in the last three, four weeks on clay—Rome, Belgrade and here—is giving me good sensations and feelings ahead of that match. I'm confident. I believe I can win, otherwise I wouldn't be here. Let's have a great battle.”

Djokovic will be pleased to have a day of rest before he takes the court against Nadal, who defeated Diego Schwartzman in four sets on Day 11.

He talked about the high stress level he reached against Berrettini, which was the first ever night session on Court-Philippe Chatrier with fans-before they were sent home, much to their chagrin.

“I thought the atmosphere was Davis Cup like, to be honest,” he said. “It was a lot of fans involved, every single point cheering, screaming. Just electric atmosphere out there. Yeah, I'm happy that I had that experience of playing in front of the crowd in the night session.”

Djokovic let out a guttural scream after the match concluded, which pierced the empty arena. Was it a statement that he had passed all his tests and now was fired up for Nadal? He said no, he was just pleased to be finished with a hard night’s work.

“This match had it all: falls, crowd, break,” he said. “It was a lot of intensity. I just felt under tension the entire time. I felt like I missed some of the chances to end the match in the third set. I didn't want to give him too much opportunities to dictate the match. That's why it was just super, super stressful to constantly be under pressure on my service games because his service games were quite smooth with the big serve. “Yeah, the reaction in the end was just me liberating that tension that was building up for the entire match.”

 

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