Paris – Novak Djokovic set up a 58th meeting against Rafael Nadal when he reached his 40th Grand Slam semifinal on Wednesday, while Maria Sakkari stunned defending French Open women’s champion Iga Swiatek to become the first Greek woman to make the semifinals at a major.
World No. 1 Djokovic defeated Italy’s Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5 to book his place in the semifinals for the 11th time.
Nadal, the 13-time champion, beat Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 to reach the semifinals for the 14th time.
With Djokovic’s match extending past France’s 11 p.m. curfew, play was halted for around 20 minutes at 3-2 in the fourth set so 5,000 fans could be funneled out of Court Philippe Chatrier.
Djokovic eventually won on his third match point but only after kicking an advertising board in frustration after missing his first two chances to end the match.
“It was a release of all the emotions I had kept inside me,” said Djokovic, who hit 44 winners and saved all three break points he faced.
“After all the fans left and the little break, it wasn’t easy to find rhythm. It was really a very difficult match for me.”
Friday’s semifinal will be the eighth match between Djokovic and Nadal at the French Open, where the Spaniard has a commanding 7-1 advantage. While that includes last year’s final, Djokovic is also just one of two men to have defeated Nadal at Roland Garros.
Djokovic, an 18-time major winner and 2016 French Open champion, is looking to become the first man in over 50 years to win all four Grand Slams twice.
Nadal, meanwhile, will be vying for his 21st Grand Slam title, which would move him past Roger Federer for sole possession of the all-time record.
An easing of COVID-19 restrictions meant fans were allowed to attend an evening session at this year’s tournament for the first time. The crowd of around 5,000 watched as Djokovic took command against Berrettini, who reached the quarterfinals when Federer withdrew from the tournament.
Play was halted to clear the stadium just before 11 p.m.
Some fans chanted: “We are going to stay, we are going to stay,” before they relented and filed out.
“We paid €500 for two-thirds of a match,” said one man, who watched the quarterfinal with his wife and two children. “It’s unacceptable.”
Nadal defeated Schwartzman for the 11th time in 12 meetings.
The world No. 3 improved to 105-2 at the French Open and advanced to a Grand Slam semifinal for the 35th time.
“It’s always incredible for me to return to the semifinals for another time,” Nadal said.
Schwartzman also lost to Nadal in the 2020 semifinals.
“Next time, I want to be in the other side of the draw,” the rueful Argentine said.
World No. 18 Sakkari triumphed 6-4, 6-4 over Polish No. 8 seed Swiatek and will face 33rd-ranked Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic for a place in the final. Russian No. 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will contend with unseeded Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia in the other semifinal.
“I am speechless,” the 25-year-old Sakkari said. “It is a dream coming true.”
Swiatek went into the match on the back of 22 consecutive sets won at the French Open, but her run was curtailed by a right thigh injury which needed to be taped during a medical timeout early in the second set.
Her loss means Justine Henin, who won in 2006 and 2007, remains the last player to defend the women’s title.
“This year I had more pressure on me, but I think quarterfinal is a good job,” Swiatek said.
Krejcikova knocked out 17-year-old American Coco Gauff 7-6 (8-6), 6-3 after needing six match points to finish the job.
Gauff, the youngest quarterfinalist at a major in 15 years, was undone by seven double faults and 41 unforced errors.
“I never really imagined I’d be standing here one day on this court, especially in singles, and being able to win,” said Krejcikova, who had been so paralyzed by fear before her fourth-round victory over Sloane Stephens that she locked herself in a stadium office and wept.
Krejcikova, now on a 10-match winning streak, is having a busy week. She is also in the semifinals of the women’s doubles.
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