Novak Djokovic sealed his place in the French Open semi-finals with a 6-3 7-5 6-3 win against Tomas Berdych in Paris. The current world No1 and tournament favourite produced a topsy-turvy performance in front of a sparse crowd on the Philippe-Chatrier Court to advance into the last four of the event.
The Serb, who has never previously won at Roland Garros, moved a significant step closer to realising his ambition of winning all four grand slams during another rain-interrupted match.
Under grey clouds in the French capital, the two players started the match very evenly, sharing the first six games. But Djokovic completed the first break in the seventh game. And the pre-match favourite secured the first set when he earned his second break of serve with the scoreline stood at 5-3.
Djokovic started the second set in similarly impressive form, establishing a 4-1 lead over the seventh seed before allowing his advantage to slip and twice losing his own serve. Yet, in what was becoming an increasingly eye-catching match, Djokovic dug deep to pinch the last game of the second set to take it 7-5.
But still, the world No1 could not shake off his lesser-fancied opponent, who was level at 3-3 when the widely-expected rain shower arrived. Djokovic was visibly agitated by his own erratic strokes by this stage and would have been relieved to have been excused from the court. Berdych, on the other hand, was furious with the chair umpire, whom he accused of taking the players off prematurely.
A nine-minute rain delay allowed Djokovic to regain his composure and emerge from his dressing room a totally rejuvenated player. Indeed, the Serb produced some of his best tennis of the entire match to take three straight games to seal victory, although he was lucky to escape without an official warning when he threw his racket onto the court and it narrowly missed a line judge.
Next, Djokovic will face Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals, after he overcame Belgium's David Goffin. Thiem lost the opening set but after squaring the match he grew as the contest went on and eventually prevailed 4-6 7-6 6-4 6-1 to reach his maiden grand slam semi-final.