Novak Djokovic savours victory in Grand Slam last eight battle
Novak Djokovic lost his first set of the French Open but battled back to defeat Karen Khachanov and move through to the semi-finals.
The third seed looked like he could be in trouble when he was pushed to a second-set tie-break after dropping the opener, but he won seven straight points and pulled away to win 4-6 7-6 (0) 6-2 6-4.
The World No 3 admitted that his opponent started stronger.
“I think he was the better player for most of the [first] two sets,” said Djokovic in his on-court interview. “I was struggling to find my rhythm. I made a lot of unforced errors and came into the match quite slow, quite sluggish. But I played the perfect [second-set] tie-break, really, and from that moment I played a couple of levels higher than I did at the beginning.
“[There was] a little bit of a scare towards the end of the fourth set, but I managed to win eight points in a row to finish it off. It’s a big fight. It’s something that you expect in the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam. You’re not going to have your victories handed over to you. You’ve got to earn them, so I’m just glad to overcome the big challenge of today.”
Djokovic struggled to deal with the power game of Russian Khachanov in the opening set and made some unexpected errors as he dropped serve in the fifth game.
Khachanov, who made the semi-finals at both the US Open and Australian Open, had another chance to break in the ninth game and, although Djokovic managed to hold this time, his opponent comfortably served out the set.
The momentum slowly began to switch in the second set as Djokovic, who was engaging in repeated dialogue with his support camp, began to apply some pressure to the Khachanov serve.
He did not manage to break but, not for the first time this fortnight, played a flawless tie-break and then benefited from a lucky netcord to win a long opening game of the third set on the Khachanov serve.
The only blip after that came with a loose game that saw him lose his break advantage at 4-3 in the fourth set, but Djokovic regained it straight away and served out the victory.
The Serbian is through to his 45th slam semi-final, one behind Roger Federer and seven adrift of Chris Evert’s all-time record, and now only two victories away from a record 23rd slam title.
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