Djokovic v Berrettini: Things we learned

It took well over three hours for the world No.1 to overcome his ninth-seeded opponent on Wednesday night

Novak Djokovic, Roland Garros 2021, quarter-final© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Chris Oddo

Rivalry renewed! Novak Djokovic’s 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 victory over No.9 seed Matteo Berrettini on Wednesday in Paris means that the world No.1 will meet Rafael Nadal in the Roland-Garros semi-finals.

It will be the 58th meeting between the two legends and their ninth meeting on the terre battue in Paris. 

Here’s what we learned from Djokovic’s Day 11 takedown of Berrettini. 

A serving groove 

Djokovic has been on point with his serve from the get-go in Paris, and he continued that trend against Berrettini on Wednesday night, saving a trio of break points in the first set - all behind first serves - and then settling into a very efficient rhythm for the rest of the match. 

Through five matches in Paris, Djokovic has only dropped serve three times, and he has saved 19 of the 22 break points he has faced. 

"I was pleased with the way I served when I served. I think I didn't lose my serve today once, which is great playing against somebody like Matteo who is really quality tennis player," Djokovic said.

It’s a great sign for the world No.1. He’ll need every single element of his game working for him if he is to challenge Nadal in the semi-finals on Friday.

Focus and a fight on a late night

If Djokovic was looking for a crisp, efficient performance to erase the memory of his fourth-round five-setter against Lorenzo Musetti and help him gain confidence for the challenge of facing Nadal, this was it. 

There was so much to like about the Serb’s well-rounded game on Wednesday night. His variety was on full display and he kept Berrettini off balance by employing all the tricks in his clay-court arsenal. 

But that didn’t mean the contest was without complication. Djokovic was close to knocking out the Italian in straight sets, leading 5-4 in the third-set tiebreaker, but two errors gave Berrettini a set point on his serve and the Italian converted. 

Despite the hiccup in the third set, and a scary fall that caused a bloody left hand in the fourth, Djokovic kept it clean on the stat sheet, cracking 44 winners against just 19 unforced errors, and he made the most of his opportunities, converting four of nine break point opportunities and saving all three break points he faced. 

Novak Djokovic, Roland Garros 2021, quarter-final© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

A primal scream

Was Djokovic already thinking about Nadal when he let out that epic, blood-curdling celebratory scream after the match? No, he was just happy to let go of the tension of a very difficult battle with Berrettini.

"This match had it all: falls, crowd, break. It was a lot of intensity," said Djokovic about a match that started with a buoyant crowd on Court Philippe-Chatrier but ended in an empty stadium due to the 11pm curfew in place.

"I just felt under tension the entire time. I felt like I missed some of the chances to end the match in the third set. I didn't want to give him too much opportunities to dictate the match. That's why it was just super, super stressful to constantly be under pressure on my service games because his service games were quite smooth with the big serve.

"Yeah, the reaction in the end was just me liberating that tension that was building up for the entire match."

Djokovic v Nadal, Episode 58

The match we all expected when the draws were released two days ago is here. Djokovic will face the third-seeded Nadal for the 58th time in his career, and the ninth time at Roland-Garros (Nadal leads 7-1 in Paris)

Djokovic is the only active player that knows what it takes to defeat Nadal on the Parisian clay, but that win came six years ago.

If we scale back and look at the big picture we see that Nadal has won 20 of 27 sets played between the two in Paris, including three last year in the final, which the Spaniard won easily, 6-2, 6-0, 7-5. 

"Last year he just dominated the finals against me," Djokovic told the press after the match.

The Serb added that he was confident in his chances after a strong three-week stretch of tennis on the clay that has seen him reach the final in Rome, win the title in Belgrade and reel off five victories in Roland-Garros to stretch his current winning streak to nine.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2020 final© Philippe Montigny/FFT