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French Open 2015 Day 11: Djokovic dethrones 'King of Clay'

Novak Djokovic celebrates towards his team
by Alex Sharp
Wednesday 3 June 2015

Wimbledon.com's highlights from the eleventh day of the 2015 French Open at Roland Garros with records broken in the pursuit of a final four place.

Decima over for now

What a line-up for a quarter-final on Philippe Chatrier. It was bemusing to see Novak Djokovic, chasing a career Grand Slam, pipped against nine-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal so early on in the tournament.

Djokovic before the contest was on a 26 match winning streak, reminiscent of his marvellous start to the 2011 campaign, meanwhile Nadal was on 39 wins in a row in Paris, but something had to give.

In a staggering 44th meeting between these two gladiators of the modern game, it didn’t need much hype but it was incredibly hard to predict with Djokovic winning their previous six encounters whereas the Spaniard had never lost to the world No.1 at Roland Garros.

A razor sharp Novak Djokovic seemed to be determined to gain revenge for those defeats by breaking Nadal at the first chance.

Nadal, on his 29th birthday, struggled to cope with the ferocity of the Serb’s striking and his clever use of the drop shot.

Djokovic had restricted his opponent to just four points at 4-0 but Nadal hauled himself back into contention with an outstanding backhand pass which the world No.1 even applauded.

It was Djokovic’s turn to tense up as Nadal clawed his way back level during some lung bursting rallies. The reigning champion endured intense pressure on serve but survived four break points in game ten but eventually caved in at game 12.

An uncharacteristic missed smash and wayward dropshot gifted Djokovic the enthralling opener at the sixth attempt 7-5 after 67 minutes but that’s as good as it got for Nadal.

At 4-3 to the Serb in the second set Nadal succumbed to the relentless returns from Djokovic and a volley in the tramlines handed the decisive break.

Djokovic had the crowd in raptures following a sublime angled pick up half volley helped him serve out the second set with ease at 6-3, leaving Philippe Chatrier stunned.

The final set became a procession and Djokovic hurried to inflicting Nadal’s only second loss at Roland Garros.

“I think I had my moments, but in general, Novak was better than me.  That's it,” said Nadal. “And I’m going to fight.  I lost in 2009 and was not the end.  I lost in 2015, and is not the end.  I hope to be back here the next year with another chance.”

“It's definitely a big win, a match that I will remember for a long time,” claimed a delighted Djokovic before defending Nadal’s record. “If you need a reminder of who he is, you just look at his career stats and Grand Slams that he won.”

The end score:  7-5, 6-3, 6-1

Murray edges through

Djokovic’s semi-final opponent on Friday will be Andy Murray, who became the first British player to reach the final four in Paris three times after defeating David Ferrer.

A scrappy opener saw two of the best returners in the game trade blows until a tie-break had to separate them, when Scot seized the initiative as Ferrer floundered with some costly errors.

A set up and Murray surged into control with a run of 12 of 16 points to move 4-1 clear and then nine games from 11 placed the 28-year-old in true command with at 3-0 in the third with Ferrer failing to find his serving rhythm.

At this point the scoreboard flashed up that Djokovic had won in three on Chatrier, prompting a round of applause from the crowd. Murray knew he had to finish the job and quick with Djokovic already beginning his recovery.

However seemingly with the finishing line in sight at 5-4 Murray stuttered and Ferrer pounced into action with some marvellous angled drives. The British No.1 netted a forehand on match point before surrendering the lead.

Ferrer reignited his campaign to take the third but Murray responded immediately with a double of cross-court passing shots to take the momentum back and draw praise from the crowd.

The Spaniard was running on empty and Murray stormed 5-0 up before converting his third match point to remain unbeaten on the dirt this season.

Murray expects an extremely tough encounter on Friday: “I'll need to be and accept that there is going to be ‑ if I want to win the match, it's not going to be plain sailing.  That's very unlikely that well you'll be comfortable physically.  It will be difficult, and you need to prepare yourself mentally before you go out on to the court.”

Serena on song

The world No.1 Serena Williams moved into the Roland Garros final four once again with a convincing display against Italian Sara Errani.

Williams thrashed the 17th seed during their semi-final in Paris in 2013, losing just one game, before lifting the title that year.

Unfortunately for the spectacle Williams repeated such a devastating performance, extending her unbeaten record against Errani to nine, with a 6-1, 6-3 victory in just over an hour on a sun baked Philippe Chatrier.

Serena has had to comeback from a set down in her previous three matches this tournament in Paris but made sure of a sharp start on Wednesday.

Williams was eager to enforce her game on the tenacious Italian and reeled off a succession of thunderous winners to break at the first attempt.

Rarely troubled, the American sauntered through the first set in 27 minutes 6-1 by targeting the second serve, with Errani perplexed on how to respond down the other end.

Errani, a Roland Garros finalist herself in 2012, made life tricky for Williams at the start of the second but couldn’t contain the barrage of attacks from Williams in the seventh game for the crucial break.

The most drama in the match occurred when the ball kids forgot to hand Williams a ball after a missed first service, prompting the world No.1 to request ‘Can I get a ball?’

To her annoyance, Serena wasted four match points but sealed a final four spot in just 66 minutes and will surely feel a 20th singles Grand Slam title is within her grasp.

"I'm not putting too much pressure on myself... I'm surprised I'm still in the tournament, so this is really cool for me," said the American.

Bacsinszky keeps firing

Surprise package Timea Bacsinszky will take on Williams next, becoming the first Swiss women to reach the last four in a Grand Slam since 2004.

Two years after she almost gave up tennis entirely for a career in hotel management, Bacsinszky defeated Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck 6-4, 7-5.

The 23rd seed prevailed in a tense encounter, firing down 26 backhand winners in the process, but will have to improve drastically against the world No.1. Their only meeting on clay was in Rome back in 2010, when Williams was victorious 7-6(6), 6-1.

Stat of the day

Having lost Nadal falls down to 10th in the world rankings next week. In fact if Tsonga reaches the final he could fall to 11th , with either being his lowest since April 2005.

Pick of the quotes

“I was doubtful about myself the 11 years that I have been playing here.  I won nine and I lost twice.  Doubts are good in life,” said a reflective Nadal.

World No.1 explained his continued success: “Everything coming together in my life and experiencing probably the pinnacle of my career, of my life, complete person, very satisfied on and off the court, and I think it all influences the results in my performance.”

“I don't think there are any negatives that you can have from winning against someone that has won this event nine times and beating them in straight sets.  I'm not buying that that can be negative in any way,” – added Murray after Djokovic’s emphatic win.

“Yeah, I know I'm not going to win my match doing dropshots on her second serve.  I will definitely have some other things to do.” – Bacsinsky admitting she’ll need a thorough gameplan against Serena Williams.

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