Rain delays and a backlogged schedule have drawn the ire of many involved at this year’s Roland Garros, but for world number one Novak Djokovic – one of the most affected players – there were no signs of disruption on Court Phillipe Chatrier on Thursday.
Djokovic was in quarter-final action against seventh seed Tomas Berdych and made light work of the Czech, winning in straight sets 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 and in the process reaching the French Open semi-finals for the sixth consecutive year.
It will be the Serb’s 30th appearance in a Grand Slam semi and his eighth time of reaching the last four at Roland Garros in his career, but six years in a row is a particularly impressive feat – a record – and not even ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal can match it.
The Spaniard is ultimatley a nine time champion at Roland Garros however. For Djokovic to win the French Open this year – at the twelfth attempt – it would be his first.
One look at the career head-to-head before this quarter-final encounter and the omens looked worrying for Berdych. Having lost 23 of 25 matches versus Djokovic, with just two sets to his name in their last ten meetings, he walked out on court wearing this season’s must have Adidas ‘zebra’ attire and was subsequently devoured by the most formidable lion on the men’s tour.
If Djokovic was not formidable enough, he is now fuelled by an insatiable hunger to create history. He needs only a French Open title to complete the career Grand Slam, with multiple crowns in Melbourne, Flushing Meadows and at Wimbledon. Two more victories between now and Sunday will also bring his overall grand slam tally to 12, closing in on Nadal (14) and men’s record-holder Roger Federer (17).
With the form Djokovic displayed against Berdych and with messrs Nadal and Federer missing from the draw, it’s seems as though the biggest threat to Novak’s quest to complete that career Grand Slam this week is himself. A tough semi-final between Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka in the other half of the draw – a match that you would expect could well go deep into five sets – brings the prospect that Djokovic’s opponent in the final could be relatively fatigued, if he can come through the challenge of first-time semi-finalist Dominic Thiem in quick time.
22-year-old Austrian Thiem beat the Belgian 12th seed David Goffin in impressive fashion in his quarter, winning 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-4, 6-1.
Thiem and Djokovic and Murray and Wawrinka meet in the semi-finals on Friday.