Fired-up Novak Djokovic sets up Rafael Nadal clash

A fired-up Novak Djokovic battled past Matteo Berrettini to set up a semifinal clash against Rafael Nadal

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Novak Djokovic will take on Rafael Nadal in French Open semi-finals

A fired-up Novak Djokovic scored a 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 win over big-hitting Matteo Berrettini to set up a blockbuster semi-final clash against Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

It was well past the French Open curfew when the match ended, and Djokovic sounded a war cry in the empty stadium after getting past the towering Italian.

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The World No 1 had started celebrations early, pumping his fists and kicking a courtside advertising hoarding when he earned a match point.

Djokovic saved all three of the break points he faced against Berrettini on Court Philippe-Chatrier, which was rocking with fans during most of the night session for the first time in the fortnight after the city of Paris extended its nightly curfew to 11 p.m.

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But even as fans were cleared out from the stadium in the middle of the fourth set, even when the Serbian lost his footing and cut open his left hand upon resumption, Djokovic never lost focus.

With blood staining his racquet handle, the top seed let out a roar when he clinched the victory after three hours and 28 minutes.

“This match had it all: falls, crowd, break. It was a lot of intensity. I just felt under tension the entire time,” Djokovic said.

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“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.

“The reaction in the end was just me liberating that tension that was building up for the entire match.”

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Djokovic and Nadal’s semi-final meeting, which will be a rematch of last year’s final, as well as the 2014 and 2012 championship matches, will be the 58th matchup of the ATP Tour’s most prolific rivalry.

The World No. 1, who lifted the trophy here in 2016, is seeking to become the first man in the Open Era to win every Grand Slam title twice, while Nadal is in the hunt for an all-time record 21st Grand Slam crown.

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Djokovic leads Nadal 29-28 in their overall ATP Head2Head, while the Spaniard owns the 19-7 edge in clay-court matches.

The Serb also picked Nadal, ahead of Roger Federer, as his biggest rival.

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“Yeah, I’d probably pick Rafa as the biggest rival I’ve ever had in my career, and the anticipation for the match against him, any match or any surface or any occasion, is always different from any other,” he said.

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