Novak Djokovic targets a 10th Roland Garros semi-final on Wednesday (Oct 7) as he faces Pablo Carreno Busta, the man who was on the other side of the net when the world No. 1 was sensationally defaulted at the US Open.
Victory will give the top seed and the 2016 champion a last-four clash against either Stefanos Tsitsipas or Andrey Rublev who are in the quarter-finals in Paris for the first time.
Djokovic has moved effortlessly into a 14th quarter-final in Paris and 47th overall in the majors as he targets a second French Open and 18th Grand Slam.
He has dropped just 25 games through four rounds and now sits three wins away from becoming the first man in half a century – and only the third in history – to win all four Slams twice.
The 33-year-old’s only heart-stopping moment came in his last 16 win over Karen Khachanov when a ball ricocheted off the frame of his racquet and accidentally smashed into the face of a line judge.
“My gosh, it was a very awkward deja vu,” said the Serb who last month was disqualified from the US Open for an angry swipe of a ball which hit a female line judge squarely in the throat.
That was Djokovic’s only ‘defeat’ against 35 wins this year.
Carreno Busta, the world No. 18, has lost both his meetings to Djokovic on clay, in Monte Carlo in 2014 and 2017.
The 29-year-old made the quarter-finals at the US Open and was also in the last eight in Paris in 2017.
However, that experience ended in heartbreak with an abdominal injury forcing him to quit against Rafael Nadal after just 52 minutes.
Carreno Busta, who needed treatment on a stomach problem in last 16 win over Daniel Altmaier on Monday, says that Djokovic’s legacy should not be permanently sacrred by the incident in New York.
“I think Novak is a great player, a great person. Sometimes we cannot control our emotions. A mistake,” said the Spaniard.
Less than two weeks after Rublev defeated Tsitsipas in the Hamburg claycourt final, the pair meet again in their debut appearances in the last eight in Paris.
Rublev, the 22-year-old with a mop of unruly red hair, has been a picture of flashy shot-making and defiance in Paris as he reached a third career Slam quarter-final to follow similar runs in New York in 2017 and last month.
In four matches at the tournament, his opponents have served for sets on eight occasions but Rublev has been equal to the task every time.
The Russian has five career titles, three of which have come in this truncated season. Only Djokovic with four can boast a better record.
World number six Tsitsipas, also 22, is equally flamboyant.
He is the first Greek to get this far in Paris and will be playing in the quarter-finals of a major for just the second time following his breakout run at the 2019 Australian Open where he made the semi-finals, defeating Roger Federer on the way.
“Andrey is a tough cookie,” said Tsitsipas.