Novak Djokovic is through to the semifinals of the 2021 French Open after beating Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 on Wednesday on Court Philippe-Chatrier at Roland Garros.
The 2016 champion has now made three straight semifinal appearances and 11 all time.
It had mostly been smooth sailing for Djokovic through the first three rounds as he failed to drop a single set. Then Lorenzo Musetti took the first two sets off of him in their fourth-round encounter. Musetti quickly faded from there and retired in the fourth set.
Djokovic clearly wanted to avoid a similar start against Berrettini. He staved off break points in the first and third games before earning a break for himself to take a commanding 4-1 lead in the opening frame.
Berrettini only committed 11 unforced errors over the set, but his nine winners were indicative of how he couldn't put Djokovic away when he had an opportunity.
The same story played out in the second set as Berrettini had no answer for the No. 1 player in the world.
Djokovic was particularly effective on serve.
Standing on the deuce court, he took a little off his serves in order to produce more spin and push Berrettini further to his right. In the ad court, he opted for flatter serves that targeted the Italian's backhand.
The result was Djokovic winning 77 percent of his first-service points and going 26-of-40 on second serve.
Berrettini fought back in the third set, using his forehand to great effect. He also picked up seven aces as he threw everything he had at Djokovic to stay alive in the match.
With the score tied at four games apiece, Djokovic had a break-point chance but couldn't convert. Berrettini held serve and quickly put his opponent away when trailing 5-6 to force the tiebreaker.
Djokovic appeared to be in the driver's seat up 5-4 and on serve. However, he dumped a forehand into the net and did the same with a backhand on the next point to open the door for Berrettini.
Djokovic led 3-2 in the fifth set before play was brought to abrupt halt as fans were ordered to leave the arena so as to meet the temporary curfew put in place. One expected Berrettini to be hurt the most by the situation because the live crowd had provided him with much needed energy throughout the match.
He continued to hang around, while Djokovic had to deal with a cut that opened on his left palm when he lost his footing and fell to the court in the sixth game.
The 34-year-old Serb looked somewhat listless after the restart but managed to hold serve. That continued to amplify the pressure on Berrettini, who finally faltered while serving to stay alive at 5-6. At deuce, his backhand clipped the top of the net and sailed wide. Then he dumped a sliced backhand into the net on match point.
Djokovic's win sets up a highly anticipated semifinal clash with Rafael Nadal. Djokovic owns a slim 29-28 head-to-head advantage, but Nadal is 7-1 when they've met in Paris.