For the twilight of the idols, we will come back. In the absence of defeats of glorious elders, the court Philippe-Chatrier offered itself, Wednesday, June 9, a beautiful sunset, which iridescent the sky of the Porte d’Auteuil. And improbable images of fans escorted out of the stadium by security, which only the pandemic linked to Covid-19 can offer us. A few hours after Rafael Nadal, winner without incident of Argentinian Diego Schwarzmann, Novak Djokovic painfully avoided the obstacle Matteo Berretini in four sets (6-3, 6-2, 6-7 [5-7], 7-5).
For the final evening session at Roland-Garros – from the semi-finals, the tournament reverts to a more classic format – the public returned to the Central, taking advantage of the reduction in the curfew (now at 23 hours). And for three hours, the 5,000 fans were enthusiastic about the last quarter-final of the 2021 edition of the Paris tournament. Before missing the final bouquet.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the curfew times have changed, please make your arrangements to be able to leave the stadium by 10.45 p.m. at the latest.” Always helpful, Novak Djokovic tried to spare the first evening public of the Parisian fortnight the moods and expulsion in the short run. After pocketing the first two sets without a hitch, the Serbian did not come far from finishing the game before the fateful hour. “Maybe I could have finished this match in the third set, in the decisive game”, recognized Djokovic after the meeting, at the microphone of Cédric Pioline. But a tennis match is played for two, and Matteo Berrettini “Did not come here to suffer”, as urged by a spectator (undoubtedly keen on digital culture).
Djokovic in full control for two rounds
He did, however, for more than two sets. Having reached the quarter-finals at Porte d’Auteuil without going through the quarter-finals – due to Roger Federer’s package – the Roman colossus (1.96 m) came up against a world number 1 in full control. Eye-catching, Matteo Berrettini tried to attack the Serbian, forcing him to do the wiper on the clay of the Central. But Novak Djokovic is not the type to be pushed around. “It’s hard to maintain your focus against a player who serves so well, with a lot of power and speed”, recognized the player, happy to have won “A great battle”, where he never gave up his service game.
Faced with the Serbian surveyor, a past master in the art of exploring new angles on the court, a player must evolve more than perfect. Berrettini has beautiful chain the surgical blows, the slightest ball a bit less lively is exploited. And Djokovic roars.
” This is a bit short, young man “, seems to launch the “Djoker”, at the time of closing the second round. Without demerit or ever giving up, Matteo Berrettini came up against a rock, a peak, a course. Like his compatriot from the Italian peninsula in the previous round, Lorenzo Musetti, had experienced it: to jostle Novak Djokovic, “You have to play at your best, your best tennis. And it is difficult. ” The words are from Rafael Nadal, coming out of his quarter-final.
The Italian number 1 explained on Sunday that he had proved that he could “Now play on all surfaces, in all playing conditions”, he who has long been labeled a hard player. But in an attempt to outflank the world number 1, he often relied on his lightning service and his devastating forehand. Thus, solid, Berrettini won the decisive game of the third set, before pushing his opponent to a fourth set. Much to the delight of a boiling audience, happy not to have to come home before curfew.
“A Davis Cup atmosphere” interrupted
“The atmosphere reminded me of a Davis Cup, with people screaming and cheering, and a lot of electricity in the air, greeted the Serbian after the meeting. I am happy to have played a night meeting here, in front of the public. “ Paradoxically, in the mildness of the Parisian evening, Novak Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini finally returned to the locker room before their fans. The only way for the organizers to force the spectators to sing “We paid” in chorus, to return to their homes before the curfew. During the break in the session, of about fifteen minutes, security came to escort the last recalcitrant.
On the return – Djokovic led 3-2 in the fourth round – the two men had to find their bearings in a suddenly silent stadium. If he tasted the clay of the center court, unbalanced by a devastating forehand from the Italian, Novak Djokovic quickly regained his senses. “I knew that the atmosphere was going to be completely different, and I knew that it was going to take time to adapt”, smiled the player, who achieved his third match point, and let out a howl. Due to a lack of public, Djokovic took charge of the encouragement at the end of the match. “The interruption stopped the momentum, I was playing well, and that didn’t help me”, recognized his opponent, before qualifying “But all this is beyond us, it is not the worst that has happened to us in this Covid year, so we have to adapt”. He left Roland-Garros arms in hand.
“Physically, I feel in good shape. And I know how to exhaust my opponent in a 5-set match ”, expressed Djokovic at the end of his round of 16. He only needed four to get to the semi-finals. And confidently advances on the road to Rafael Nadal, who had rolled it in the fall in the final (6-0, 6-2, 7-5). For once, their duel will not end the Parisian fortnight, enough to weaken Nadal’s mental hold on “Nole”? “The huge difference between competing in a semi-final or a final is that if you win a semi-final, you haven’t won anything. The winner must refocus for the final ”, blew the Mallorcan after his shift, agreeing he would have “Preferred to face Djokovic in the final. “It’s the long awaited semi-final, and here we are”, smiled his future opponent. On Friday, the public shouldn’t miss a beat of the game.