Djokovic, Nadal set up semifinals date
Novak Djokovic’s French Open quarterfinal against Matteo Berrettini was delayed for about 22 minutes yesterday while thousands of spectators were cleared out because of an 11pm coronavirus curfew. Pandemic-related restrictions were loosened to allow 5000 inside on Court Philippe chatrier rather than the 1000 for the previous matches, and it was quite an atmosphere until the rule was imposed. “The conditions were strange with the fans here, and then the atmosphere was a bit different [afterwards],” Djokovic said after winning 6-3 6-2 6-7  7-5 to reach his 40th Grand Slam semifinal. “You have to find a different motivation because the energy from the fans is special.” Some disappointed fans jeered and even sang “We’ve paid, we’ll stay” as they refused to leave when supposed to at 10:45pm. Shortly before 10.55pm local time, both players packed their bags and walked off down the tunnel while fans shouted out in frustration. The top-ranked Djokovic was up 2-1 in sets and leading 3-2 in the fourth set when play was halted. Within a few minutes the main stadium was almost completely empty, although two angry fans continued to argue they had a right to stay until security officials finally ushered them away. Moments later, both players came back out to warm up amid a cathedral-like silence as the sound of ball hitting racket replaced the sometimes raucous atmosphere. In another quarterfinal, 13time champion Rafael Nadal’s streak of sets won at Roland Garros ended at 36, but he recovered to defeat Diego Schwartzman 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-0. Nadal’s semifinal opponent will be Djokovic. Meanwhile, when one last forehand from defending champion Iga Swiatek landed wide, Maria Sakkari crouched on Court Philippe-chatrier and bowed her head, relishing the moment. Sakkari is still two wins away from lifting the trophy, but yesterday’s victory means the Greek is already in new territory — just like the other three women left in the draw. Sakkari ended Swiatek’s 11-match and 22-set winning streaks at Roland Garros by beating her 6-4 6-4 to guarantee that there will be a first-time Grand Slam champion when the tournament ends. Tonight, the 17th-seeded Sakkari plays unseeded Barbora Krejcikova in the semifinals, and No 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova faces unseeded Tamara Zidansek. All four are making their Slam semifinal debuts. “We are four very good players,” Sakkari said. Players that can win a title, for sure.” Krejcikova advanced by eliminating 17-year-old Coco Gauff 7-6  6-3. This is only the second time in the professional era that there has been four firsttime semifinalists at any major tournament, according to the WTA. It also happened at the 1978 Australian Open.