PARIS (Reuters) — 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.
Top seed Djokovic was given a mighty scare against Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti on Monday, losing the first two sets, but seemed to be rolling towards a straightforward victory after moving two sets ahead against Berrettini.
Djokovic broke serve for a 3-1 lead in the first set and after Berrettini failed to convert a break point when trailing 4-2 the Serb sealed the opening set in routine fashion.
A clinical Djokovic cruised through the second set but Berrettini dug his heels in throughout the third set without managing to fashion a break point.
With the first night session crowd permitted getting behind the 25-year-old, Berrettini extended Djokovic into a tiebreak and bombed down a couple of aces and some venomous forehands.
Djokovic had the match on his racket at 5-4, however, but a couple of uncharacteristic errors gave Berrettini a set point that he converted with another thudding forehand.
Suddenly an energized Berrettini looked dangerous but the drama was halted as the 5,000 fans were ordered to leave in line with Paris’s 11 p.m. COVID-19 curfew requirements when Djokovic led 3-2 on serve in the fourth set.
After a 25-minute delay, in which the players left Court Philippe Chatrier, battle resumed in silence and despite a heavy fall which grazed his hand, Djokovic sensed his moment when Berrettini served at 5-6.
Djokovic vented his anger as Berrettini saved a second match point with a brutal forehand and he then produced a series of deafening roars aimed at his entourage after clinching the win at the third time of asking.
Nadal, 13-time French Open champion, dropped a set at Roland Garros for the first time in two years but roared back to beat 10th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-0 on Wednesday and storm into the semifinals.
Schwartzman ended Nadal’s run of 36 consecutive sets won at Roland Garros, dominating the longer rallies with well-constructed points and the match was evenly poised at 4-4 in the third set when third seed Nadal converted a crucial break point.
Schwartzman ran out of energy in the fourth as Nadal dispatched him with a clinical performance, the defending champion sending a flurry of winners past the tiring Argentine.