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Big guns chasing big dreams at French Open

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Friday’s semi-final will be the eighth match between Djokovic and Nadal at Roland Garros where the Spaniard has a commanding 7-1 advantage.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic. Picture: Reuters, Guglielmo Mangiapane

NOVAK Djokovic set up a 58th meeting with Rafael Nadal on Wednesday when he reached his 40th Grand Slam semi-final.

World number one Djokovic defeated Italy’s Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5 to book his place in the Paris semis for the 11th time.

Nadal, the 13-time champion, beat Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 to make the semi-finals for the 14th time.

With Djokovic’s match extending beyond the national 11pm curfew, play was halted for around 20 minutes at 3-2 in the fourth set so that 5,000 fans could be funnelled out of Court Philippe Chatrier.

Djokovic eventually claimed the match on a third match point but only after he had kicked out at an advertising board in frustration at missing the first two.

He says: “It was a release of all the emotions I had kept inside me.

“After all the fans left and the little break it wasn’t easy to find rhythm. It was really a very difficult match for me.”

Today’s semi-final will be the eighth match between Djokovic and Nadal at Roland Garros where the Spaniard has a commanding 7-1 advantage.

Rafael Nadal of Spain. Picture: EPA, Christophe Petit Tesson

That includes last year’s final but Djokovic remains just one of two men to have defeated Nadal at the tournament.

Djokovic, an 18-time major winner and 2016 French Open champion, is looking to become the first man in more than half a century to win all four Slams twice.

Nadal, meanwhile, can win a record-setting 21st major with victory in Sunday’s final, edging ahead of Roger Federer in the all-time race.

Sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev faces fifth-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the other semi-final.

AFP