Novak Djokovic sets up French Open semi-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas
Novak Djokovic set up a semi-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the French Open as he came from behind to defeat Pablo Carreno-Busta in four sets.
Djokovic had tape on his neck and looked to be having some issues with his left arm while losing the opening set, the first he has dropped at this year’s tournament in Paris.
But the world number one appeared less troubled thereafter as he fought back to get past Carreno-Busta 4-6 6-2 6-3 6-4 in a high-quality contest lasting three hours and 10 minutes.
Djokovic later said he had experienced “some neck and shoulder issues” but was “feeling OK.”
Spaniard Carreno-Busta was Djokovic’s opponent when he was sensationally disqualified from the US Open last month after hitting a ball in frustration that struck a line judge.
That is the only match in 37 this year that has not ended in victory for the Serbian 17-time grand slam winner, who is aiming at Roland Garros to add to his 2016 triumph, his sole French Open title to date.
Djokovic said after the match: “I definitely didn’t feel great coming into the court today. A few things happened in the warm-up. I had to deal with those physical issues coming onto the court.
“As the match went on, I felt better, didn’t feel as much pain. But I don’t want to take away anything from his good performance. Especially for a set and a half, he was the better player. I was very neutral.
“I didn’t have much energy really happening in my legs or movement or game itself. It took me about set and a half to really get comfortable and start really playing the way I should.”
When asked for specific details of the problems, the top seed said: “I had some neck and shoulder issues. I’ll just say that.
“Obviously I’m still in the tournament, so I don’t want to reveal too much. I’m feeling OK.”
It was then put to Djokovic that former coach Boris Becker had said during the first set he thought the 33-year-old had some problems mentally to deal with because of what happened at the US Open.
“No, no, it wasn’t that at all,” Djokovic said. “I told you guys many times I’m over it. I’m not thinking about it at all. I mean, zero per cent.”
Tsitsipas earlier roared into the last four with a three-set demolition of Andrey Rublev.
Russian Rublev, the 13th seed, was seemingly in control during the opening set, leading 5-3 with Tsitsipas serving to stay in it.
Four games later Rublev had lost the set, and barely over an hour later he had lost the match, winning only five more games as he was sent packing.
What looked on paper another potential five-setter turned into a 7-5 6-2 6-3 procession for the Greek fifth seed.
Tsitsipas said: “I’ve been feeling really comfortable on this court and despite a bad start and being a break down I remembered what a big fighter I am.
“It’s about fighting and trying to find solutions at difficult moments. I managed to get my brain working and found solutions.
“Roland Garros is a tournament I have been watching since I was a kid and always dreamed of playing on these courts.
“I used to skip classes at school to watch it. That’s how much I like this tournament. It’s a dream come true playing here and in front of the public.”
Tsitsipas had led by two sets and 5-1 only to lose to Borna Coric at the US Open last month, and just last Sunday in the Hamburg final he served at 5-3 up in the deciding set against Rublev, only to lose it 7-5.
There was no such drama here, though, as the 22-year-old held to love, finishing Rublev off with a volley at the net to reach his second grand slam semi-final and his first in Paris.
The other last-four clash is between Rafael Nadal and Diego Schwartzman.