At the US Open, Novak Djokovic experienced his first career default after hitting the lineswoman in the fourth round against Pablo Carreno Busta. The Serb faced the Spaniard again in the quarter-final of Roland Garros on Wednesday night and things were not perfect for the world's leading player, struggling with an injury and losing the opening set.
In the end, Djokovic recovered to beat Carreno Busta 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and ten minutes, advancing to his tenth semi-final in Paris. Novak had to deal with neck and shoulder pain, overcoming the issues after medical timeouts and when his body got warmer to beat the Spaniard and remain on the title course.
After the match, Djokovic didn't want to talk much about his problems, keeping them hidden and hoping to be at 100% for the semi-final clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday. Mats Wilander believes Novak's injury is a big worry, especially ahead of two challenging best-of-five encounters in three days.
Mats think the injury is legit and that Novak didn't use a medical timeout to break the rival's rhythm, saying he has to make a good start against Tsitsipas and find an early rhythm. Novak served at 40% in the opening set, struggling physically and spraying 16 unforced errors.
After four comfortable holds on both sides, Carreno Busta drew first blood in game five after a terrible forehand from the Serb to move 3-2 in front. Djokovic pulled the break back when Pablo hit a double fault in game eight to level the score at 4-4 and prolong the set.
The Serb wasted a game point and got broken after losing a battle of backhands in game nine, allowing the Spaniard to seal the set with a forehand down the line winner in the next one after 48 minutes. Djokovic started to serve better and feel the ball in set number two, hitting 13 winners and seven unforced errors to recover and keep the pressure on the other side of the net.
Carreno Busta squandered two break opportunities in game three and got broken in the next one after a forced error.
Mats Wilander believes Novak Djokovic needs a strong start against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The Serb survived another break point in game five to forge a 4-1 advantage, sealing the set with a break at love thanks to a return winner for 6-2.
Feeling much better on the court, Novak produced respectable numbers in set number three, landing 14 winners and seven unforced errors. Djokovic survived break chances in the opening game, stealing Pablo's serve with a drop shot winner in game two.
From 3-0 down, Carreno Busta bounced back with a break at 15 at 1-3 following a forehand winner. Novak saved a break point in game seven to remain in front, broke Pablo in the next one and closed the set with a hold at love at 5-3 to open two sets to one lead.
Giving his best to stay in touch, Carreno Busta saved the first five break chances in set number four's games three and five before spraying a terrible forehand error at the net at 3-3 to push Djokovic in front. Novak repelled three break points to move 5-3 ahead, forcing Pablo to serve for staying in the match.
The Spaniard closed the ninth game with a service winner, reducing the deficit before Novak sealed the deal with a forehand winner, moving into the semis and remaining on the title course. "I think Novak's injury is a big worry; I don't think he wants to show his opponent that he is feeling an injury.
It's a legitimate injury that's going to be there, and if he doesn't get a good start, that could be a problem. Clearly, it took him some time to warm his body yesterday, and that's going to be the same tomorrow, and again in the final.
Pablo Carreno Busta hinted that he always does that; I don't think Novak wants to do that when he's down. I would say it's a worry for sure because these next two matches for any player will be brutal in length and physicality. You are going to run for a long time, with two marathon matches waiting for you," Mats Wilander said.