Roland Garros

Djokovic overcomes stadium clearance and Berrettini to set up Nadal semi-final

Novak Djokovic reached the semi-final at the French Open after taking four sets to beat the ninth seed Matteo Berrettini
Novak Djokovic reached the semi-final at the French Open after taking four sets to beat the ninth seed Matteo Berrettini © Pierre Rene-Worms/RFI

The quarter-final match between top seed Novak Djokovic and ninth seed Matteo Berrettini descended into farce on Wednesday night after they were forced to leave the centre court while stewards cleared the stadium of fans to comply with an 11pm government curfew.

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Thousands of spectators booed and whistled during two earlier requests over the public address system asking them to leave the arena.

But at 10.55pm, with Djokovic leading 3-2 in the fourth set, the players were led off the court to allow the stadium to be cleared.

At 11.15pm when play resumed the volume was significantly lower and Berrettini staved off a break point to level at 3-3.

Just after 8pm when the match started in front of 5,000 fans, Djokovic faced a break point in his opening service game. But two aces got him out of trouble on his way to holding.

The Serb broke his 25-year-old opponent to lead 3-1 and claimed the opening set 6-3 after 54 minutes.

Masterclass

The second set was a Djokovic masterclass in cold, percentage tennis as the 34-year-old Serb won four consecutive games from 2-2 to notch up the set 6-2 after 36 minutes.

And just after 90 minutes of dominant play, it looked like Djokovic would wrap proceedings up swiftly in front of the fans who were allowed to watch until 11pm after the easing of restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

They were there to see Berrettini take a set. But 30 minutes after they had been turfed out, Djokovic claimed the fourth set 7-5 after an unprecedented interruption during three hours and 25 minutes of play. 

"It's difficult to maintain the intensity against someone who plays with such power," said Djokovic. "I could have finished it in the third set but I am glad to have won it in four. It was strange for both of us. We started with the energy of the crowd and then it was gone."

Djokovic will take on the defending champion Rafael Nadal on Friday for a place in Sunday's final.

Nadal dropped a set at the tournament for the first time since his four set defeat of Dominic Thiem in the 2019 final. 

The third seed came through against the 10th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 to reach his 14th semi-final in Paris.

He and Djokovic will play for a 58th time when they face off on Friday. 

The match has been programmed for the afternoon.

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