Wild scenes in Paris as Novak Djokovic beats Matteo Berrettini amid a spectator revolt
Novak Djokovic battled past Matteo Berrettini in a match that saw spectators ejected from Roland Garros midway through as he set up a 58th meeting with Rafael Nadal in the French Open semi-finals.
Fans were allowed into the night session for the first time following a relaxation of Paris’ curfew from 9pm to 11pm, and the match even began ahead of schedule to try to ensure it could be completed in time.
It appeared that would be the case when Djokovic eased into a two-set lead but the third was much closer and the Serbian unexpectedly became tight within sight of the finishing line, allowing Berrettini to push it to a fourth.
That made it inevitable the match would finish later than 11pm and boos rang out when the fans, who had created a very good atmosphere, were told they would have to leave.
The players also exited the stadium to allow the process to take place and it took more than 20 minutes before all the spectators were escorted out of the stadium and play restarted in virtual silence.
Berrettini, who was the beneficiary of Roger Federer’s withdrawal, had come to life with the fans’ involvement, getting the better of Djokovic’s legendary defence with his big serve and forehand.
He matched Djokovic until the 12th game, when the Serbian clinched his third match point, roaring with guttural emotion towards his support camp at the end of a 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5 victory.
Now, Djokovic must try to do what he has managed only seven times in 26 matches and only once in eight meetings at Roland Garros and beat Nadal on clay.
He went into last year’s final as arguably a marginal favourite only to get crushed in the first two sets as Nadal claimed a 14th title.
The Spaniard’s form this year offers little encouragement, although he did lose his first set since the 2019 final in Wednesday’s victory over Diego Schwartzman.
The 35-year-old extended his unbeaten run of matches on the Parisian clay to 35 with a 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-0 victory, and the bad news for the rest of the men’s draw is Nadal has never lost once he has reached the last four.
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