Novak Djokovic did not try to play it cool after setting up a dream Roland Garros showdown with Rafael Nadal. 

The world number one defeated Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 Wednesday to secure a semi-final match-up with the 13-time French Open champion. 

Djokovic admitted his meetings with Nadal are "not like any other match" and said he expects a "great battle" Friday when the pair meet for the 58th time. 

"Let's face it, it's the biggest challenge that you can have playing on clay against Nadal on this court in which he has had so much success in his career," Djokovic told a press conference. "In the final stages of a grand slam, it doesn't get bigger than that.

"Of course, each time we face each other, there's that extra tension and expectations. Just vibes are different walking on the court with him.

"But that's why our rivalry has been historic I think for this sport. I've been privileged to play him so many times."

Djokovic holds a narrow edge against the man he called his biggest rival, with 29 victories to Nadal's 28, but the Spaniard has won the last two meetings -- including a straight-sets triumph in the French Open final last year. 

"Obviously different conditions are going to be played on Friday than it was the case in finals of last year, so I'm hopefully going to be able to also perform at the high level than I have, especially in the first two sets in the last year's final.

"The quality and the level of tennis that I've been playing in the last three, four weeks on clay -- Rome, Belgrade and here -- is giving me good sensations and feelings ahead of that match.

"I'm confident. I believe I can win, otherwise I wouldn't be here. Let's have a great battle."

Djokovic had to battle Wednesday to defeat the ninth-seeded Italian, letting loose a primal scream when he finally put the match away in the fourth set. 

The Serbian said the crowd was Davis Cup-like before fans were ushered out due to the local curfew. 

"The crowd lifted him up. He was playing some really powerful tennis," Djokovic said. 

"Especially in the third and fourth he served tremendously strong and precise. It was just very difficult to read his serve and play someone like him.

"He's very talented. He can play well from the back of the court. He's got a lethal forehand, dropshots. ... When he's on, it's tough to play him."

Novak Djokovic will face Rafael Nadal in the semi-final of the French Open after defeating Matteo Berrettini in four sets.

The 18-time grand slam champion, who has only one title to his name at Roland Garros, was somewhere close to his imperious best on Court Philippe Chatrier as world number nine Berrettini's run was halted in a 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 loss.

This is as far as the Italian has got in Paris but Djokovic was determined to let him go no further, the world number one having suffered a scare in the last round as he fell two sets behind to Lorenzo Musetti before Berrettini's compatriot retired hurt.

Djokovic's peerless returning ability was on full display, and will have to be again against the 'King of Clay' Nadal, as he negotiated a tricky test with relatively little fuss.

The Serbian showed laser-like precision off both wings, affording Berrettini precious few opportunities to apply any pressure at all across the first two sets. 

Seeking to become only the second Italian player to defeat the French Open's number one seed after Adriano Panatta did so against Bjorn Borg in 1976, Berrettini could not find the answers to Djokovic's constant probing.

Like Djokovic, Berrettini was handed a walkover in the previous round after Roger Federer withdrew, although he did not have to even take to the court.

The third set offered some small hint that it may have given Berrettini an advantage in terms of freshness as he came through a hard-fought tie-break, fists pumping as he forced the contest late into the Parisian night, meaning the fans in attendance would not be able to see the match to its conclusion.

But a Djokovic break late into an hour-long fourth handed him the victory, prompting passionate, wide-eyed celebrations from the Serbian in the direction of his coaching team.

Data Slam: Djokovic can't be faulted

Opponents looking for any kind of weakness in Djokovic's game might feel some glimmer of hope when they get a look at his second serve. And then that second serve comes and the 34-year-old's variety leaves them befuddled. Djokovic won 65 per cent of the points on his second serve, proving that even when it appeared to door may have been ajar for Berrettini, it was quickly slammed shut.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 44/19
Berrettini – 55/51

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 10/1
Berrettini – 11/3

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 4/9
Berrettini – 0/3

Novak Djokovic came from two sets down against Lorenzo Musetti on Monday to reach the quarter-finals of the French Open for a record 12th consecutive year after his opponent retired in the fifth set.

The world number one went into the contest with the 19-year-old having not dropped a set at these championships but found himself in big trouble after a gruelling first couple of hours.

It felt like a different match entirely after that, as Djokovic won 16 of the final 17 games before Musetti retired with the scores at 6-7 (7-9) 6-7 (2-7) 6-1 6-0 4-0 in the 2016 champion's favour.

The Serbian seemed unsettled by Musetti's unpredictable early approach, the teenager mixing up forehand speeds and backhand passes to good effect after an early exchange of breaks.

It looked like Djokovic had control of the opening tie-break only for Musetti to win five out of six points to lead 6-5. Two rasping forehands soon secured the set after a Djokovic error.

Belief in a shock upset really did begin to grow when Musetti took a 3-1 lead in the second set, at which point Djokovic literally took his hat off to his opponent. Whether it was psychological or his cap really was a bother, a bare-headed Djokovic promptly broke back to love.

Djokovic's error count dropped from 20 in the first set to 15 in the second, but the momentum still seemed to be with the Italian, who continued to paint the lines from both sides of the court even when it seemed impossible: early in the second tie-break, a reflex lob from the net somehow bounced on the baseline as his opponent watched in disbelief.

Deserved as his lead was, there was still a feeling that, should Musetti's standards slip even a touch, the door to the comeback would be open. Djokovic seemed to sense as much, returning from a bathroom break to power his way through the third set in just 28 minutes, less than half the time of each of the first two.

Suddenly, doubt crept into Musetti's play as Djokovic began to dictate. He won 16 points in a row to take a 4-0 lead in the fourth and broke again with the sort of drop-shot winner that Musetti had anticipated with ease in the opening two hours.

Djokovic was troubled by his lower back before the fifth set and needed treatment to his hand after somehow winning the first point on the Musetti serve despite falling heavily in the dirt.

Yet it was Musetti whose body could simply no longer keep up, his retirement ensuring Djokovic will now face Matteo Berrettini in the last eight.
 

Data Slam: Djokovic kept his cool as Musetti froze

Djokovic is rarely shy about showing his emotions on court, so it was interesting to see not a single outburst even after he fell 2-0 down.

Each player had won 85 points in those first two sets and Djokovic seemed to know this was no one-sided affair. When he moved up a gear and Musetti started to falter in mind and body, it was a totally different contest, Musetti winning just 18 points in the final 17 games.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 53/42
Musetti – 30/49

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 11/2
Musetti – 1/2

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 9/9
Musetti – 2/4

Rafael Nadal set another French Open record and hit one more grand slam milestone with victory on Saturday, while world number one Novak Djokovic also progressed at Roland Garros.

Nadal, a 13-time French Open champion, reached the last 16 of the tournament for a record 16th time by beating Cameron Norrie 6-3 6-3 6-3.

It marks the 50th time Nadal has made it through to the fourth round of a grand slam in his outstanding career. Djokovic is second on the all-time list with 54 appearances in the last 16 of a major – behind only Roger Federer - after he saw off Ricardas Berankis 6-1 6-4 6-1 in just 92 minutes.

While Nadal is set for a repeat of last year's quarter-final against Jannik Sinner, top seed Djokovic will be taking on another promising youngster in the form of Lorenzo Musetti.

DJOKOVIC THRILLED WITH HAMILTON COMPARISON

Djokovic is yet to drop a set at Roland Garros in 2021, with last year's beaten finalist – who is well on course to meet up with his old foe Nadal in the last four this time around – looking every bit worthy of his status as top seed.

His dominant display against Berankis drew comparisons, from one commentator at least, to Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton.

"It's like the dominance of Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes team. Berankis is a great driver, he maximises everything under the hood. But Novak Djokovic is driving a completely different race car," said former French Open champion Jim Courier.

"Berankis can't do the same things. On the same track, he can't race the same. Novak can drive how he wants."

It was a comparison which delighted Djokovic.

"Well, I'm honoured to be compared to Lewis. I respect Lewis and everything he does in his career, but also, off the track with his activism," said the 34-year-old, who is hunting a 19th major win. "Something that truly inspires me and a lot of athletes.

"I don't want to talk about my driving next to Lewis' name. Honestly, it's embarrassing to speak about my driving, and in the same sentence with Hamilton! But the analogy and the comparison of my game with an F1 car, it's definitely something that pleases me."

NADAL ENJOYING ROLAND GARROS BACKING

Given his sensational achievements in Paris down the years, it is no surprise that Nadal feels right at home whenever he returns to Roland Garros.

There were, of course, no fans allowed into the stands last year, but a limited number of spectators, including his family, are on hand to cheer him on once more this time.

"It is true that for the last year and a half it has been difficult for every player, although I didn't play so much," Nadal said.

"Those who have been travelling week after week without the chance to have family and a full team with them is very tough. They have been challenging conditions.

"For me it is very important to have the team and family behind me, because of them I am what I am today. I'm happy to have crowds, that is so important for us."

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

Though the era of dominance enjoyed by Federer, Nadal and Djokovic is only just starting to show signs of slowing down – albeit they still monopolise the grand slams – round four is going to throw up two fascinating contests.

Sinner came up against Nadal in the 2020 quarter-finals, and the Italian will be looking to cause an almighty upset this time around after overcoming Mikael Ymer.

Joining Sinner in the last 16 is his compatriot and fellow teenager Musetti, who has the small task of taking on the world's best player following a hard-fought victory over Marco Cecchinato.

It is the first time two teenagers have reached the fourth round at Roland Garros since Djokovic and Gael Monfils did so in 2006.

Novak Djokovic breezed into the fourth round of the French Open with an emphatic straight-sets defeat of Ricardas Berankis.

The top seed was a cut above the Lithuanian on Court Philippe-Chatrier, cruising to a 6-1 6-4 6-1 victory on Saturday.

Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti stands in the way of Djokovic and a place in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros after a masterful display from the world number one.

Djokovic served superbly, winning 88 per cent of points on his first serve and not facing a single break point, while also producing another exhibition of returning as he wrapped up a clinical victory in only an hour and 32 minutes.

The 18-time grand slam champion put Berankis under pressure immediately, breaking in the second game and taking a 4-0 lead with an exquisite backhand winner down the line.

Berankis was able to get on the board with a smash to reduce the deficit to 5-1, but Djokovic served out a one-sided opening set in only 26 minutes.

Djokovic did not have things all his own way in the second, but claimed the only break to go 3-2 up and was two sets up when his opponent returned a powerful first serve beyond the baseline.

Berankis was being given the run-around as the legendary Serb treated the crowd to sublime winners and demonstrated his incredible athleticism, letting out a huge roar after going 3-0 up with a blistering forehand.

There was no let-up from 2016 champion in Paris, who sealed a crushing victory with his third break in the third set.

 

Data Slam: Djokovic makes more major history

Djokovic has only won the French Open title once, but he has made history at Roland Garros. This victory moved him into the fourth round for a 12th consecutive year, which is an Open-era record.

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic – 30/18
Berankis – 20/36

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic – 5/3
Berankis – 1/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic – 6/9
Berankis – 0/0

Roger Federer took "a lot of confidence" from his four-set win over Marin Cilic as he produced his best display of the year at the French Open.

The 39-year-old beat the 2014 US Open champion 6-2 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Thursday, building on his first-round defeat of Denis Istomin with an impressive performance.

Federer looked in command in the first set but lost rhythm in the second amid sharpened play from Cilic and a strange confrontation with the umpire after a time violation warning while receiving serve.

The match was on a knife-edge heading into the third-set tie-break, but Federer was clinical when it mattered, serving out the set with an ace before assuming control again in the fourth.

"[It was a] very good match for me, I thought," said Federer, who will face Dominik Koepfer in round three. "A bit of up-and-downs in the second and third sets.

"The good thing, I feel like I come out of a match like this and I know why it was up and down, and then that I was able to attain a solid level once he did break back in the third set and things were looking dangerous for me.

"That I was able to step up a gear, stay with him, and then pull away from him, I think that gives me a lot of confidence."

DJOKOVIC AND NADAL IN CRUISE CONTROL

World number one Novak Djokovic is another who is finding his feet on the Paris dirt, the 2016 champion beating clay specialist Pablo Cuevas 6-3 6-2 6-4.

Djokovic, who will face Ricardas Berankis next after his win over James Duckworth, struck 31 winners as he moved to 22-3 for the year with his 350th grand slam match win.

"I'm playing well, feeling great. I'm ready to go deep in this tournament," he said. "Hopefully, that's going to be the case."

Defending champion Rafael Nadal was in imperious form in the late match, dispatching Richard Gasquet 6-0 7-5 6-2.

Nadal, who turned 35 on Thursday, won the opening seven games in under half an hour in a largely one-sided contest as he improved to 17-0 against the Frenchman, the most one-sided head-to-head of his career.

The Spaniard, who has not even dropped a set to Gasquet since 2008, said of winning once again in three: "I honestly don't complain at all! The main thing for me is to feel myself play well.

"In theory, it's better to save some energy, but at the same time, sometimes when you are pushed at the beginning of a tournament, you went through some tough moments, that helps a lot for the next rounds.

"It happened for me in Rome like this. I had some tough challenges at the beginning of the tournament, and then you get to the quarters, semis and final and you know you're going to suffer and you're more ready for the situation."

MONFLIS OUT, KWON EYEING SLICE OF HISTORY

Cameron Norrie continued the British interest in the French capital, recovering from a set down to defeat Lloyd Harris and reach round three for the first time, and will face Nadal next.

In a mixed day for the seeded players, Diego Schwartzman and Matteo Berrettini advanced in straight sets while Jannik Sinner beat compatriot Gianluca Mager 6-1 7-5 3-6 6-3.

However, Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev was beaten in four sets by veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, while 21st seed Alex De Minaur lost in four sets to Marco Cecchinato.

There was also disappointment for home favourite Gael Monfils. The 14th seed was beaten 6-0 2-6 6-4 6-3 by Mikael Ymer, the world number 105.

However, Thursday saw a moment to remember for Kwon Soon-woo, who reached round three of a major for the first time with a straight-sets victory over Andreas Seppi. He is bidding to become the first South Korean player to get to round four at Roland Garros.

There were impressive wins as well for teenagers Lorenzo Musetti and Carlos Alcaraz Garfica, who beat Nikoloz Basilashvili in straight sets to secure a meeting with Jan-Lennard Struff.

Novak Djokovic booked a place in the last 32 of the French Open with a straight-sets victory over Uruguayan veteran Pablo Cuevas.

The top seed, seeking just a second triumph at Roland Garros, followed up his emphatic win against Tennys Sandgren in round one with a slightly tougher 6-3 6-2 6-4 triumph against Cuevas.

World number one Djokovic had 31 winners to 22 unforced errors and will now face James Duckworth – who beat Ricardas Berankis earlier on Thursday – in the next round.

Djokovic initially took some time to get going and lost his serve in just the third game, before instantly hitting back in the fourth.

The 18-time grand slam winner did not look back from that point, serving up some impressive tennis on the clay and breaking Cuevas again in the eighth game to take a one-set lead.

Cuevas has reached the third round in Paris on four occasions, but hopes of doing so again this year were effectively put to bed in a blistering second set from Djokovic, who was successful with all 11 of his first serves to close in on victory.

Playing on Court Suzanne-Lenglen did not faze Djokovic – with Roger Federer taking prime position on Court Philippe-Chatrier – as he held throughout a gruelling third set and completed the job with a 10th ace of an entertaining contest.

Data Slam: Another milestone reached for Djokovic

Thursday's match was Djokovic's 350th at a grand slam and he looked very impressive pretty much from the moment he recovered from his early wobble. Cuevas also played well, but his opponent saved eight of the nine break points he faced to set up a meeting with Berankis.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic – 23/22
Cuevas – 31/26

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic – 10/3
Cuevas – 5/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic – 5/8
Cuevas – 1/9

Men's top seed Novak Djokovic says he empathizes with Naomi Osaka having been on the wrong side of the media in the past following her withdrawal from the 2021 French Open.

Four-time grand slam winner Osaka pulled out of Roland Garros on Monday, a day after tournament organisers said her continued refusal to attend compulsory news conferences could result in her being expelled from the Open.

Osaka had come out publicly prior to the French Open and announced she would not attend the news conferences after matches at Roland Garros, citing mental health reasons.

After winning in the first round, Osaka opted out and explained her decision in a social media statement where she said has had bouts of depression since winning the US Open in 2018 and never intended for her stance to become a distraction.

Djokovic, who came under fire last year for his role in the Adria Tour and his US Open default, was asked about Osaka's situation at his post-match news conferences after his straight sets win over Tennys Sandgren on Tuesday.

"Naomi is very young… I can understand her very well. I can empathise because I was on the wrong edge of the sword in my career many times with media," Djokovic said.

"I know how it feels. I support her. I think she was very brave to do that.

"I'm really sorry that she's going through painful times and suffering mentally. I wish her all the best.

"She's a very important player, brand and person for our sport. We need to have her back.

"This was a very bold decision from her side but she knows how she feels best. If she needs to take time and reflect and recharge, that's what she needed to do. I respect it fully. I hope she'll come back stronger."

Djokovic, who was 18 major titles to his name, added that he understood the stance of the French Open and other Grand Slams who have insisted on news conferences being mandatory after every match.

"The grand slams are protecting themselves and their own business," he said. "Of course, they're going to follow the rules and make sure you are complying otherwise you'll be paying fines and getting sanctioning.

"It's not surprising to me that that was their reaction. We're used to this environment and the principles of us doing interviews after every match and getting to answer questions that are majorly quite similar.

"But it's part of our sport and what we do. The media is important without a doubt. It's allowing us to have the platform to communicate with our fans but in a more traditional way.

"It used to be the only way how we could reach out to our fans. In the last five to 10 years it's not the case anymore. We have our own platforms and social media accounts."

Djokovic won 6-2 6-4 6-2 over Sandgren, compiling 33 winners to extend his outstanding French Open first round record to 17-0.

"I thought I played really well, moved very well," he said. "From the later stages of the Rome tournament until now, I'm finding my groove on the court, striking the ball well."

Novak Djokovic eased into the second round of the French Open thanks to a straight-sets win over Tennys Sandgren in the final match at Roland Garros on Tuesday.

The top seed – beaten by Rafael Nadal, who is in the same half of the draw, in the Paris final last year – had won his previous 16 first-round contests at the French Open, and there never appeared to be any danger of him failing to extend that record on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Indeed, this meeting lasted under two hours, with the world number one cruising through 6-2 6-4 6-2 without conceding serve and while hitting 33 winners in the process.

It also brought up his fourth career win over Sandgren, maintaining a 100 per cent record over the world number 66. Pablo Cuevas awaits in round two.

Sandgren was a break down in a hurry as Djokovic breezed through the first set in just 31 minutes.

The 34-year-old – a five-time Roland Garros finalist who claimed his solitary title at the event in 2016 – grew frustrated in the second set as he made nine unforced errors and offered up six break points, yet he saved them all.

It evidently demoralised Sandgren, who had put everything into trying to draw level, and the American swiftly found himself 4-1 and two breaks down in the final set, with Djokovic moving through the gears.

A sloppy shot into the net cost Djokovic his first match-point opportunity at 5-2 up, yet he made no mistake as he served out for the win – Sandgren's overhit cross-court forehand rounding off a one-sided contest.

Data Slam: Super Djokovic serves up a treat

Eighteen-time grand slam champion Djokovic may not have needed to live up to his own lofty standards, but his service game was typically excellent in the evening session. He landed 49 of 73 first serves, helping him to win 86 per cent of his first-serve points (42/49). 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 33/21
Sandgren – 25/27

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 4/2
Sandgren – 5/1

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 5/11
Sandgren – 0/6

Novak Djokovic will head to the French Open on the back of claiming the singles title at the Belgrade Open after battling past Alex Molcan in the final.

The world number one did not have it all his own way against the world number 255, with the first set featuring just three service holds.

But Djokovic claimed four breaks to Molcan's three to take the opener and did not let his advantage slip in front of his home crowd.

He negotiated a similarly tricky second set to prevail 6-4 6-3, with attention now turning to the second grand slam of the year after Djokovic won the Australian Open back in January.

After a resilient performance in the first set as he twice came back from a break down, Djokovic was able to enjoy a slightly less frenetic path to victory in the second.

He broke down a more obdurate Molcan for a 4-2 lead, only for the Slovak to hit straight back.

But Djokovic was not to be denied and immediately claimed another break, which he consolidated to delight his adoring public.

Victory in what was Djokovic's first final on home soil since 2011 means he now has 83 ATP singles titles to his name, with three of them coming at this event.

It also caps a positive period of preparation for a tilt at a second French Open title, with Djokovic having reached the final in Rome this month only to lose to Roland Garros favourite Rafael Nadal.

Nadal and Djokovic could meet in the semi-finals this year in Paris, where the Serbian was thrashed by the King of Clay in three sets in the 2020 final.

Djokovic will start his campaign to add to his 2016 French Open success when he faces Tennys Sandgren in the first round.

In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes – a statement largely true until Rafael Nadal emerged on the scene and made the French Open his own.

Since breaking through for his first Roland Garros triumph in 2005, only three other men – Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic – have managed to interrupt Nadal's dominance in Paris.

Nadal has won 13 French Open men's singles titles, seven more than any other player in the Open era (Bjorn Borg, six) heading into this year's edition.

Despite being seeded third, it would take a brave person to bet against defending champion Nadal adding to his mammoth and unprecedented haul in the French capital, where the second grand slam of the year gets underway on Sunday.

On the women's side, defending champion Iga Swiatek is looking to follow in the footsteps of Belgian great Justine Henin.

As all eyes shift to Court Philippe Chatrier and its surroundings, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind this year's slam, using Opta data.

 

The 'King of Clay'

Nadal will open his title defence against Australian Alexei Popyrin. Since 2000, only Nadal (13) and Gustavo Kuerten (two) have won the French Open more than once.

The 34-year-old swept aside world number one Djokovic in straight sets last year for his fourth consecutive French Open crown and 20th slam trophy, equalling Roger Federer's all-time record. Nadal maintained his stranglehold on the major, having not dropped a set throughout the fortnight. Only three players have previously won the French Open without losing a single set: Ilie Nastase in 1973, Bjorn Borg in 1978 and 1980 and Nadal in 2008, 2010, 2017 and 2020.

Nadal is the only player to have won the same slam more than 10 times. He has lost just two of the 102 matches played in Paris (excluding walkovers), losing to Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round and Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals, while has won each of the last 30.

The record for most slam titles on the men's circuit will also be up for grabs, with Nadal and the returning Federer seeking to snap their tie.

In the last 25 years, the number one seed has won the French Open on only five occasions – Nadal (2018, 2014 and 2011), Djokovic (2016) and Kuerten (2001). It does not bode well for top seed and 18-time major champion Djokovic, who is looking to close the gap on foes Nadal and Federer.

Australian Open champion Djokovic, who will face Tennys Sandgren in the first round, has reached the final in seven of the last 10 slams he contested, claiming six titles. However, the Serbian star has only featured in five French Open deciders (W1 L4) – fewer than in any of the other three major tournaments.

 

Declining Federer, Nadal challengers?

The French Open will be a welcome sight for tennis fans as Swiss great Federer, who has not played a slam since the 2020 Australian Open due to his troublesome knee and the coronavirus pandemic, makes his comeback.

Seeded eighth ahead of his opener against Denis Istomin, 2009 French Open champion Federer has only contested nine slam finals over the last 10 years (W4 L5) after reaching that stage in 22 major events in the previous decade (W16 L6). Since the beginning of 2016, the 39-year-old has only taken part in one French Open, in 2019, where he reached the semi-finals.

Daniil Medvedev has been flirting with a breakthrough slam triumph. The second seed is a finalist at the Australian Open (2021) and US Open (2019). Medvedev has reached the semi-finals in two of his most recent three appearances at a grand slam after going further than the fourth round in only one of his previous 13 major tournaments. However, the Russian has lost in the first round in each of his four Roland Garros appearances.

US Open champion and fourth seed Dominic Thiem has played two finals at Roland Garros (2018 and 2019) – more than in any other slam – but lost both of them against Nadal. He has won 80 per cent of his games at the French Open, his best win rate in any of the four majors.

Andrey Rublev is the only player to have taken part in the quarter-finals during each of the past three grand slams, including the 2020 French Open. But the seventh seed – who fired down 53 aces at Roland Garros last year, at least 14 more than any other player – is yet to progress further than that round.

Aslan Karatsev enjoyed a fairy-tale run at Melbourne Park in February, the Russian qualifier making it all the way to the semi-finals. Only one qualifier has reached the semi-final stage at the French Open: Filip Dewulf in 1997.

 

Iga in 14-year first?

Having never progressed beyond the fourth round of a major, Polish teenager Swiatek broke through for her maiden slam title via the French Open last year, upstaging Sofia Kenin.

The 19-year-old Swiatek – who will return as the eighth seed in her defence, starting against Kaja Juvan – could become the first woman to win consecutive titles at Roland Garros since Henin in 2005-2007 (three in a row). Only three players have won multiple titles in the women's tournament at the French Open in the 21st century: Henin (four), Serena Williams (three) and Maria Sharapova (two).

Swiatek could claim the French Open and Rome's Internazionali d'Italia in the same campaign. Only Serena Williams (2002 and 2013), Sharapova (2012), Monica Seles (1990), Steffi Graf (1987) and Chris Evert (1974, 1975 and 1980) have achieved the feat previously.

Swiatek celebrated slam glory in the absence of world number one and defending champion Ash Barty in 2020. No player has won more games on clay this season than Australian top seed Barty and Veronika Kudermetova (both 13).

Only Barty (three) has won more titles than third seed Aryna Sabalenka (two) in 2021 – the Belarusian is one of two players currently ranked in the top 20 in the WTA yet to reach a major quarter-final, alongside Maria Sakkari.

In a field also including four-time slam champion and reigning Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka – the second seed – Sabalenka could become only the third woman to win the Madrid Open and French Open in the same season after Serena Williams in 2013 and Sharapova in 2014.

As for fourth seed Kenin, she could be just the fourth American player to reach back-to-back Roland Garros finals, after Serena Williams (2015-16), Martina Navratilova (1984-1987) and Evert (1973-1975, 1979-80 and 1983-1986).

 

All eyes on Serena

The queen of WTA tennis for so long, Serena Williams is one slam success away from matching Margaret Court's record of 24 major singles championships. But the 39-year-old has been stuck on 23 since reigning supreme at the Australian Open in 2017.

While the French clay is not one of her favourite surfaces, it could be the scene of a remarkable achievement following a lengthy wait.

Roland Garros is where Williams has the lowest winning percentage (84 per cent) and where she won the fewest titles (three, at least half as many as the other slams).

Williams won her maiden French Open in 2002 and could hoist the trophy aloft 19 years after her first success in Paris. The longest span between two majors wins for a single player in the Open era is already held by Williams (15 years between 1999 and 2014 at the US Open).

Irina-Camelia Begu awaits the seventh seed in the first round.

Novak Djokovic survived a second-set fightback from Andrej Martin to seal his place in the final of the Belgrade Open on Friday.

The world number one looked well placed to cruise to victory after taking just 38 minutes to win the first set 6-1, but qualifier Martin hit back in the second to force a decider.

Djokovic swiftly regained composure, though, with a bagel settling the contest 6-1 4-6 6-0 in his favour, and he will now have the backing of his home crowd as he looks to clinch his third Belgrade Open title and warm up for the French Open in style.

"I'm super excited to play in front of a Serbian crowd. This is my home town," said Djokovic, who previously won at the event in 2009 and 2011.

"I'm always excited, but also nervous, coming out on the court and playing in front of my home crowd. It's a very unique feeling. You feel a lot of pressure and expectations. But I'm just happy to fight for a trophy.

"I thought I started and finished the match really well, so I'll try to take those positive feelings into tomorrow's final. I also had some letdowns in concentration towards the end of the second set, and I'll try to correct those mistakes for tomorrow."

Standing in the way of a second title of the season for 34-year-old Djokovic is another qualifier, Slovakian Alex Molcan, who came from behind to beat Federico Delbonis 4-6 6-4 6-4.

At the Emilia-Romagna Open, Sebastian Korda, who has yet to drop a set this week, triumphed in an all-American semi-final contest, beating Tommy Paul 6-3 6-3 to reach his second Tour-level final.

Korda's win sets up a final against Italian Marco Cecchinato, who is aiming for his fourth career singles title after overcoming Jaume Munar 7-6 (7-2) 1-6 6-1.

Novak Djokovic felt he produced his best performance of the year in breezing past Federico Coria at the Belgrade Open for a milestone victory.

World number one Djokovic needed a little under an hour to beat Coria 6-1 6-0 on Thursday and set up a semi-final with Andrej Martin on home soil.

The victory moves the 34-year-old above Argentine great Guillermo Vilas for the fifth-most victories in the Open Era with 952.

He is 70 wins adrift of fourth-placed Rafael Nadal (1,022). Ivan Lendl (1,068) is third, behind Roger Federer (1,243), with Jimmy Connors holding the record of 1,274 wins.

Djokovic won 53 of the 75 points played against Coria and dropped just one game to remain on course for a third crown in Serbia ahead of the French Open.

"It was a great display," Djokovic said in his on-court interview. "It's probably one of the best matches, if not the best match, I played this year. I felt fantastic from the first point.

"It was the first time that I played against Coria and I tried to impose an aggressive style from the very beginning and not allow him to have too much time to play around. I played a phenomenal second set, really flawless.

"It's not always possible to play like this. But I think this definitely helps me feel better on the court. I think everything worked perfectly for me today."

Martin awaits Djokovic in the last four after the world number 119 recovered from a set down to beat Dusan Lajovic 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Alex Molcan remains in the hunt for a shock triumph in Belgrade, meanwhile, after beating Fernando Verdasco 6-2 6-0 to set up a showdown with Federico Delbonis.

Eighth seed Delbonis advanced to his second semi-final of the season following Roberto Carballes Baena's withdrawal through illness.

At the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, Sebastian Korda eliminated Yoshihito Nishioka to set up an all-American semi-final with Tommy Paul, who took down Jan-Lennard Struff with a 6-2 6-4 victory.

Richard Gasquet was another seeded player to fall as he lost 6-1 6-1 to Jaume Munar, with the Spaniard now set to take on Italian wild card Marco Cecchinato – a straight-sets winner against lucky loser Norbert Gombos – for a place in the final.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic could meet at the semi-final stage of the French Open, while Iga Swiatek and Ash Barty are in the same half of the draw.

Nadal will start his quest to win the Paris grand slam a staggering 14th time with a first-round encounter against Australian Alexei Popyrin next week.

Defending champion Nadal, the third seed, is in the same half of the draw as fellow all-time greats Djokovic and Federer, who could face the Serbian world number one in the last eight.

Top seed Djokovic, who is two major titles shy of the record of 20 held by Federer and Nadal, will take on Tennys Sandgren in the first round.

Swiss great Federer will come up against a qualifier in round one at Roland Garros, while two-time runner-up Dominic Thiem is up against Pablo Andujar.

Pole Swiatek claimed her maiden grand slam title at the French Open last year and takes on her close friend Kaja Juvan in the first round.

World number one Barty, who did not travel to Paris to defend her title in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, has will make her return at the clay-court major against Bernarda Pera.

Serena Williams comes up against Irina-Camelia Begu, while last year's runner-up Sofia Kenin must do battle with the 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko in a standout first-round match.

Carla Suarez Navarro can expect plenty of support when she takes on Sloane Stephens in her first tournament since successfully completing cancer treatment.

Novak Djokovic celebrated putting his name into "another history record book" after his victory over Mats Moraing at the Belgrade Open.

Djokovic's 6-2 7-6 (7-4) triumph on Tuesday set up a quarter-final tie against Federico Coria, and put the world number one level with Argentine great Guillermo Vilas for the fifth-most match wins in the Open Era (951).

It was his 17th win of the season, as the 34-year-old looks to prepare for the French Open with a third title success in his home tournament.

"With this win I managed to put my name in another history record book," Djokovic said following his victory.

"Obviously being in the same conversation with Vilas and the legends and greats of our game, it makes me really fulfilled and very joyful."

Djokovic has some way to go to make it into the top four on the all-time list, however.

He is 71 wins adrift of Rafael Nadal (1,022), who sits fourth. Ivan Lendl (1,068) is third, behind Roger Federer (1,243), who still has Jimmy Connors' record of 1,274 Open Era wins in his sights.

Despite a tight start, Djokovic got away from Moraing by winning four straight games.

Moraing hit back in set two to force a tie-break, but his illustrious opponent had too much quality.

"I was twice a break up in the second set so I maybe could have finished out the job earlier, but credit to him for fighting, for playing really well, for playing very courageous, very bold tennis," Djokovic said.

After turning 34 on Saturday, Djokovic received a bye to the second round of the Belgrade Open. He lost in the semi-finals of the Serbian Open last month, and came into this event on the back of a defeat to Nadal in the Rome Masters final.

Next up is Coria, who defeated Pablo Cuevas 6-3 6-2, though Djokovic's compatriot Pedja Krstin dropped out, crushed 6-0 6-0 by Slovakian Alex Molcan.

At the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, fifth seed Richard Gasquet defeated Daniel Altmeier 6-3 6-3, while Sebastian Korda defeated Andreas Seppi to tee up a tie with top seed Lorenzo Sonego. 

Lorenzo Musetti claimed his 13th tour-level win of 2021 by overcoming Gianluca Mager, and the Italian's reward is a meeting with Yoshihito Nishioka, who beat Sam Querrey.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.