Tuesday 25 June 2019

Cloud hangs over halting of Djokovic's match as Nadal dispatches Federer


Rafael Nadal. Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal. Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Simon Briggs

World No 1 Novak Djokovic can rarely have been so delighted to see a match suspended as when the French Open organisers called play off just before 6.30pm last night, even though the sun was shining.

When no further rain fell in the ensuing hour, tournament director Guy Forget and referee Remy Azemar were left looking ridiculous. Not only had they just cost the French Open a full refund of 15,000 tickets, but there were dark mutterings on TV commentary and social media about preferential treatment for Djokovic.

Admittedly, Djokovic will have to return today for a noon (11.0am Irish time) resumption against Dominic Thiem, leaving the winner of this semi-final needing to play on three straight days. But at least the wind - which was whistling around Court Philippe Chatrier in 80kmh gusts - is expected to drop to a more reasonable 25kmh overnight.

Djokovic, who had earlier called supervisor Andreas Egli on to the court to suggest that the match should be suspended because of the extreme winds, is not a lover of stormy conditions, which disrupt his uncanny timing.

Having split the first two sets with Thiem, he had fallen a break behind in the third when rain forced the players off for the second time in the match.

The odd thing was that, despite that shower blowing over quickly, play never resumed.

Jim Courier, broadcasting on ITV4, criticised the tournament heavily, saying "this is going to sting and it's going to stink". He also pointed out that "these conditions are very difficult for Novak, these are very advantageous for Dominic Thiem (who hits the ball with heavy topspin, usually an advantage in the wind)."

Continuing his analysis, Courier said: "Nadal and Roger Federer came ready to accept the conditions and so did Dominic Thiem. But Novak came ready to not like them. The happiest person right now would be Novak on his way back home."

It will be interesting to find out what Thiem thinks, especially if Djokovic overturns his 6-2, 3-6, 3-1 deficit today.

Federer, who had lost the first semi-final to Nadal in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, joked that Court Philippe Chatrier's new lid had better be firmly attached.

"First they put the roof," he told reporters, "and then the roof is going to fly away. There was so much wind."

It felt like the elements conspired against Federer yesterday, as his five-match winning run against Nadal came to an end. Nadal brought such intensity that Federer admitted he had found himself marvelling at his opponent.

"There is nobody who even plays remotely close to him," said Federer.

Nadal (pictured) was certainly in his element and is arguably the greatest wind player the game has ever seen.

Meanwhile, Johanna Konta's hopes of reaching a first Grand Slam final were ended by a straight-sets defeat to Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova - who will play Australia's Ashleigh Barty in this afternoon's decider.

In the end it was 19-year-old Vondrousova who showed the greater composure, coming back from 5-3 down in both sets to eventually triumph 7-5, 7-6 (2). (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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