Could this be the year Novak Djokovic achieves his career Grand Slam?
The Serb is a four-time Australian Open champion and won both the U.S. Open and Wimbledon in 2011. However, the French Open has remained elusive to the world No. 2 over his illustrious career. He came close in 2012, reaching the French Open final, but fell to Rafael Nadal in four sets.
Djokovic has been highly consistent at Roland Garros this year and his brilliant play gives him an exceptional chance to achieve this coveted feat.
ESPN Stats & Info noted how few players have been able to accomplish this:
Novak Djokovic reaches French Open semis for 4th straight year, needs to win French Open to become 8th man to complete career Grand Slam.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 3, 2014
Through five rounds in Paris, Djokovic has only dropped one set—defeating No. 25 Marin Cilic in four sets in the third round—and is on a torrid pace to earn a trip to the final.
Just how consistent has Djokovic been? Here's a look at some decisive statistics through the quarterfinals:
|Round||Opponent||1st Serve Points Won||Net Points Won||Unforced Errors|
Accumulating less than 20 unforced errors in three of his five contests at Roland Garros is a quality that will serve Djokovic well in his upcoming match against the hard-hitting Ernests Gulbis.
Gulbis has been playing excellent tennis recently, defeating Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych over his last two matches; however, he can be rather inconsistent.
In a marathon match against Federer, Gulbis' performance was plagued with hiccups, as he accumulated 53 unforced errors and won just 19-of-34 net points against the No. 4 seed.
Gulbis was able to right the ship against Berdych in the quarterfinals, winning all four of his net points and racking just 17 unforced errors; his level of consistency, however, isn't in the same realm as Djokovic.
Here's a great look at Djokovic's stellar quarterfinal performance, courtesy of ESPN Highlights:
Novak Djokovic beat Milos Raonic in straight sets to reach the French Open semifinals. http://t.co/X3uzjCNfrI— ESPN Highlights (@HighlightsESPN) June 3, 2014
This late in the tournament, the already small margin of error appears to become even smaller for the remaining contenders.
Djokovic's arsenal of weapons and high level of versatility exposed Milos Raonic quickly in the quarterfinals. Like Raonic, Gulbis is a hard-hitting player, but has limited versatility. This could prove costly to the No. 18 seed in the semifinals.
During a court-side interview after his match with Raonic, via the Toronto Sun, Djokovic stressed the importance of remaining consistent:
It is complicated to play against [Raonic] because he has a great serve, powerful and accurate, difficult to anticipate. It was important to be mentally strong and consistent.
Those qualities will go a long way for the Serb once more in the semifinals.
After all, according to a tweet from Christopher Clarey of The New York Times, Gulbis' coach, Gunter Bresnik, is very wary of the world No. 2:
Asked Gulbis's coach Gunter Bresnik about semi: "Everybody else I would take, but Djokovic is unbeatable this year" http://t.co/vmzu6YyKbr— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) June 4, 2014
Should Djokovic advance to the finals, he'll face either Andy Murray—who has an 8-12 record against Djokovic over his career and has never defeated the Serb on clay—or the ailing Nadal, who lost his last match on clay to Djokovic in Rome.
The stars appear to be aligning for the steady Djokovic, as he prepares for his semifinal match against Gulbis on Friday.
Expect the world No. 2 to be heavily tested going forward but continue to flourish on his way to a career Grand Slam.