PARIS – Novak Djokovic moved a step closer to a maiden French Open title when he swept aside Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 to reach the semifinals at Roland Garros on Thursday.
The world No. 1, whose half of the draw got easier after nine-time champion Rafael Nadal pulled out injured last week, will next take on either Austrian Dominic Thiem or the cheeky Belgian David Goffin.
Serbian Djokovic breezed through the opening set, overcame a slight glitch in the second and came back stronger after a brief rain interruption to seal a straightforward win.
He ended the contest on his second match point when Berdych returned into the net.
Wilander’s assessment: If there is a new member of the Grand Slam champions’ club this weekend, nobody should be surprised — the conditions at this year’s sodden, chilly French Open suit the underdog.
Mats Wilander, a winner of seven Grand Slam crowns, says the heavy balls and slow conditions at Roland Garros favor up-and-coming novices over the established guard.
“To get anywhere here right now, you have to put 10, 20 percent on your shots,” the Swede told Reuters on Thursday, as a cold wind whipped the grounds.
“That is what these underdogs do all the time. The big names, they win matches playing within themselves, and that is fine when you are on a warm, dry hard court in California.
“But here? Forget it. To get anything you need to take risks and hit big. That’s what the underdogs always do, and that’s when anything can happen. Top players can adjust, but the advantage is certainly with the underdog.”
This year’s tournament lost a full day’s play at the start of the second week, and numerous hours in total lost to drizzle and early finishes.