Djokovic eyes 27th Grand Slam final, Tsitsipas and injuries block path
PARIS (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic will be his favorite to reach his 27th Grand Slam final when he faces Stefanos Tsitsipas in the French Open semi-finals on Friday.
Djokovic's French Open campaign was remarkably uneventful following his humiliating disqualification in the fourth round of the US Open when he accidentally struck a line judge in the throat in frustration.
But after winning his first four games without dropping a set, he had to come out of a set to beat Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarterfinals, the player who benefited directly from his moment of madness in New York.
Djokovic, who was competing for a second French Open and 18th Grand Slam title, reached his 38th major semi-finals relatively comfortably, but he fought a set and a half against the obdurate Spaniard physically.
After that, he spoke of neck and shoulder problems and should he not be 100% fit against the 22-year-old Tsitsipas, who is only in his second Grand Slam semi-final, it could be a long night on the Philippe Chatrier Court.
"I think Novak's injury is a major concern," said former French Open champion Mats Wilander, a Eurosport analyst. "It's a legitimate injury and if he doesn't get off to a good start it could be a problem."
Tsitsipas, the fifth seed, was beaten by Rafa Nadal in his previous Grand Slam semi-final in Melbourne last year but ended 2019 by winning the prestigious ATP final.
After a stuttering start in Paris when he left Spaniard Jaume Munar two sets behind, Tsitsipas was flawless, winning 15 sets in a row, despite not completing one after Aljaz Bedene retired injured in the third round.
Tsitsipas will need his known shooting skills to break the Djokovic wall, regardless of whether the Serb is fully fit or not. He's done it twice at Masters 1000 events but never met Djokovic on a Grand Slam stage.
Notably, Djokovic's only "loss" in 36 games this year was his default setting, but he'll be wary of a player hungry to make his Grand Slam breakthrough.
"He's really played tennis of his life for the past 12 months," said Djokovic. "Winning the World Tour Final and being very consistent with your results on all surfaces.
"I expect a really tough, tough game."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, Editing by Ed Osmond)
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