Novak Djokovic advanced to the semifinals of the French Open but didn’t look anywhere near 100%. Should we be worried heading into tomorrow’s match against Stefanos Tsitsipas?
Novak Djokovic grimaced, massaging his bicep as he progressed through the first set. After coming out of the tunnel with athletic tape on his neck and a known history of injuries over the last month, it wasn’t a guarantee that he was going to be able to power through his tough quarterfinal opponent, Pablo Carreno Busta.
Through one set, it definitely didn’t look good for the World #1. He was serving a paltry 40% on his first serve and won only 3 of 11 points on Carreno Busta’s second serve. While he squared the match at 4-all after a break of serve, Djokovic choked away the set with an inconsistent last two games that saw him squander the opportunity to save two break points on his way to a 6-4 opening set loss.
The flip was switched for the remainder of the match, however, and Djokovic was back to his unbeatable form within minutes of starting the second set. He jumped his first serve percentage up to an average of 62% throughout the final three sets and forced a total of 11 break points on his opponent’s serve.
“A few things happened in the warm-up,” Djokovic said after the win. “I had to deal with those physical issues coming on to the court. As the match went on, I felt better, didn’t feel as much pain.
Heading into a tough semifinal battle against 5th-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, will Djokovic’s injuries come back to bite him tomorrow, despite playing extremely solid tennis over the last half of today’s match?
It’s certainly going to be a focal point of the match tomorrow given Tsitsipas top-tier athleticism and endurance. he’ll definitely be able to take Djokovic the distance if he’s on his best. The pair have never faced off at a Grand Slam but have split their six prior meetings. They’ve competed in two finals and have also split that mini-series (Tsitsipas won in Madrid last year and Djokovic took their most recent meeting in Dubai).
Tsitsipas has the tools to take down the World #1, hobbled or not. After coming back from a two-set to love hole in Round 1, Tsitsipas has dropped a set in his last four matches (which included wins over Grigor Dimitrov and Andrey Rublev). In just his second-ever Grand Slam semifinal, he’s riding on a high horse of strong wins in comparison to Djokovic, who finally looked human after four previous rounds of dominance.
The young Greek star also has the ability to spoil history (or at the very least delay it) with a win tomorrow. Djokovic is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to hold all four Grand Slams twice and needs another French Open to do it. In a similar situation are the other two members of the Big 3. Rafael Nadal hasn’t won in Australia since 2009, and Roger Federer is still vying for that 2nd title in Paris after taking his first in ’09, as well.
Whether or not history can be made is the ultimate question. Tsitsipas has the advantage of strong previous wins and fresh legs, whereas Djokovic isn’t so lucky. Will the injury bug finally catch up to him as it did Dominic Thiem? We’ll find out tomorrow.