Busy bodies Djokovic, Serena target French Open semi-finals


Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams target French Open semi-final spots on Thursday as history looms for both of the world’s top players.

Top seed Djokovic tackles seventh seed Tomas Berdych boasting a career dominance of 23-2 over the Czech.

The Serb is still seeking a first Roland Garros title to become just the eighth man to win all four majors and complete the career Grand Slam.

After the rain-ravaged programme this week in Paris, Djokovic will be playing for the third successive day as he goes after a 30th Grand Slam semi-final.

Victory on Thursday will also put the three-time runner-up into his eighth Roland Garros semi-final and sixth in a row.

Djokovic has beaten Berdych in their last 10 meetings although the Czech will be slightly buoyed by knowing that his last win against the world number one was on clay three years ago.

If Djokovic wins the first title in Paris, he would have played five days in six.

“We have a particular situation because of the weather, so I am going to try to get as much rest as possible and not get distracted by too many things outside,” he said after beating Roberto Bautista Agut in four sets over two days to make the last eight.

That was a win that also allowed him to become the first player to break through the $100 million prize money barrier.

He will be playing in his 10th successive Roland Garros quarter-final and 36th of his Grand Slam career.

Berdych, 30, is bidding to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2010 and equal his best Roland Garros performance.

Defending women’s champion Serena Williams follows on Court Philippe Chatrier to face unseeded Kazakh, Yulia Putintseva who is playing in her first quarter-final at the majors.

Putintseva is the youngest player left in the tournament at 21 and has lost both her previous clashes with Williams including this year at Indian Wells.

Williams is chasing a fourth French Open and an Open era record-equaling 22nd Grand Slam title.

Like Djokovic, she too is playing catch-up in the schedule with a quarter-final Thursday, potential semi-final Friday and title match on Saturday.

“Four in a row? I think for us…when we play regular tournaments you play four, five matches in a row. It’s what happens,” said Williams after sweeping aside Elina Svitolina on Wednesday to make the last-eight in Paris for a 10th time.

“In Rome, I played four in a row? Five? I don’t know. But, you know, in Miami and Indian Wells you just play every day. It’s something you just get used to. It’s totally fine I think for me and for everyone.” Belgian 12th seed David Goffin tackles close friend and 13th seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem with the winner reaching the semi-finals at a major for the first time.

A last-four date with either Djokovic or Berdych awaits on Friday.

Williams or Putintseva will tackle either Swiss eighth seed Timea Bacsinszky or unseeded Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens.

Bacsinszky made the semi-finals in 2015 where she lost to Williams.

Bertens is on an 11-match winning streak having won four ties in Paris as well as taking the Nuremberg title as a qualifier last month.