Novak Djokovic passed a difficult test when meeting eight seed Milos Raonic in the quarter-final of French Open 2014 this afternoon to stay in the contest for his debut Roland Garros title. The crowd at the fully-packed Court Philippe Chatier witnessed a rather nervous match in which the Canadian mostly relied on penetrating first serves (he struck 21 aces over the course of two hours and twenty-two minutes), whilst Novak struggled to catch his rhythm and waited for a rare chance to break through – one of them came at 5-4 where he suddenly produced a set point, yet the rival put away a service winner to rescue it and stay in the set. A couple of games later Raonic conceded two consecutive double faults before gifting Nole a new opportunity to seal the opener and this time the Serb champion did just that.
As none of the servers was even stretched to a deuce in the second set, a tie-break was required to tell the athletes apart. While Raonic neutralized the first of the Serb’s mini-breaks, he could not recover from the following one and fell two nil behind after failing to return Djokovic’s serve on the set point number two.
It seemed as the match was beyond the Canadian’s reach when he found himself 4-0 down in the third set, yet his play improved enough to hold two times in row and break Nole for the first time in the match to stay in the set at 5-3. However, the second seed stayed focused in the next attempt to create a double match point and crossed the finish line immediately as Raonic sent a forehand wide of the mark in the follow-up rally. Djokovic won 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-4 to reach his 22nd Grand Slam semi-final in which he will square off against Ernests Gulbis.
“Even though it was a straight set win, few points here and there kind of decided the winner,” said Djokovic. “That’s what I was expecting. I knew that he’s going to serve and I’m not going to have many opportunities, but when I do have them, I should use them. I have done well.”
The eighteenth seed Latvian, who confirmed his good run of form by eliminating Roger Federer in the previous round, put in another inspiring performance to dismiss sixth seed Tomas Berdych. His only loss of serve came at 4-0 advantage in the opener, whilst he broke five times in three sets to achieve his biggest career success with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 triumph. He helped his cause by hitting 10 aces and winning 81% of first serve rallies.
“I felt physically so good,” Gulbis commented at the press conference. “I felt that I can run forever. I felt that he cannot make winners. That’s how I felt on court. I felt that I covered it really well. If I feel so confident from the baseline, then everything just comes together.”