Former Champion Novak Djokovic and thirteen time winner Rafael Nadal have joined two of the brightest stars of men’s tennis Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev in the semi final of the second grand slam of the year at Roland Garros in Paris. In what is the longest rivalry in terms of number of matches on the ATP tour, the top seed Djokovic plays the third seeded Rafael Nadal, while the Monte Carlo Open champion Stefanos Tsitsipas plays the Madrid champion Alexander Zverev in the first match on Friday.
In the first quarter final played on Tuesday, Zverev, the sixth seeded German survived a lop sided first set which saw 7 breaks of serves against the unheralded Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina which Zverev won 6-4. The German then took full advantage of the tiring Spaniard and raced away with the next two sets to clinch a 6-4,6-1,6-1 win.
In an eagerly anticipated late evening match the fifth seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas who is leader in the race to Turin, dominated the second seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev to make it three consecutive semi finals in a row at a grand slam. While Tsitsipas entered the tournament having won in Monte Carlo and Lyon, Medvedev had never won a single match in three previous visits to Roland Garros. The Russian who had withdrawn from Monte Carlo as he was fighting Covid-19, had shown remarkable improvement in form and even stood a chance to dethrone Novak Djokovic as the world number One at the end of the tournament. Tsitsipas broke in the fourth game and had a chance for a double break in the eighth game of the opening set which he took on his second set point in the ninth game.
In the second set the pair exchanged an early break of serve and Medvedev then blew two set points in the tenth game on Tsitsipas serve. In the ensuing tie-break, the fifth seed never relinquished the lead and took the breaker comfortably 7-3. Medvedev was the first to break in the fifth game but Tsitsipas broke back in the eighth game to level at 4-4. Just when it looked like headed for another tie-break, Tsitsipas won 5 points in a row after Medvedev led 40-0 on serve. On match point, the maverick Russian served under arm which Tsitsipas hit a back hand winner down the line to seal the match 6-3,7-6(3),7-5 in two hours and twenty three minutes.
The 13 time champion Rafael Nadal took a 10-1 head to head record against the diminutive Argentine Diego Schwartzman, seeded tenth. Nadal who had won 36 consecutive sets in Paris lost the second set but then in an astonishing turn of events won nine consective games after trailing 3-4 in the third set. Nadal is now the leader in maximum bagel sets won in grand slams following a 6-3,4-6,6-4,6-0 win over Schwartzman. Nadal hit 39 winners and at one stage reeled off fourteen consecutive points in the two hour forty eight minutes match.
The third seeded Spaniard now faces familiar foe Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who kept alive his hopes of becoming the only man in Open Era to win all four majors atleast twice following his 6-3,6-2,6-7(5),7-5 win over the ninth seeded Italian Matteo Berretini. One break of serve in the fourth game was all Djokovic needed as he served out the set to love in the ninth game. From 2-2 in the second set, the top seed broke twice as he established a two sets lead. Berretini survived the lone break point in the ninth game in the third set. At 3-3 in the tie-break, five consecutive points went against serve before Berretini clinched it 7-5. In the fourth set, Djokovic never faced break point on serve and finally converted on his third match point to end the three hour thirty two minute match which ended past midnight local time.
The following is the semi final line up with my pick mentioned first:-
Novak Djokovic (1) v. Rafael Nadal (3); Djokovic leads 29-28.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) v. Alexander Zverev (6); Tsitsipas leads 5-2.
The ladies section of the draw is assured of a brand new grand slam winner. The Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a twelve time winner on the WTA tour swept past the Slovenian Tamara Zidansek ranked a lowly 85th, 7-5,6-3. The match saw five breaks of serve in both the sets, but the Russian, seeded 31st and ranked 32nd always looked the likely winner as she won in an hour and thirty six minutes in the first semi-final on Thursday.
In one of the most pulsating matches of the tournament, Barbora Krejcikova saved one match point and finally won on her fifth match point against Maria Sakkari of Greece in a match lasting three hour and eighteen minutes. Krejcikova dedicated the win to her now deceased coach, the former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna. The winning scoreline was 7-5,4-6,9-7.