Djokovic battles his way into French Open semi-finals

Sabalenka also through after acrimonious match against Svitolina

Novak Djokovic beat Karen Khachanov at the French Open. Getty
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Novak Djokovic had to dig deep for his victory over 11th seed Karen Khachanov that secured his passage into the French Open semi-finals on Tuesday.

Djokovic did not have a great start but once he got into his groove, the Serbian star secured a 4-6, 7-6 (7/0), 6-2, 6-4 victory to reach the last four.

Djokovic, chasing a third French Open crown and record 23rd men's Grand Slam singles title, advanced to a 45th major semi-final and his 12th at Roland Garros.

"I think he was a better player for most of the first two sets," said Djokovic.

"I was struggling to find my rhythm. I came into the match quite slow but played a perfect tie-break and from that moment onwards played a couple levels higher.

"It's a big fight, something you expect in the quarter-finals. You're not going to have your victories handed to you, you have to earn them."

On a court Philippe Chatrier gradually being covered by the shade, the 36-year-old Serb did not have a single break opportunity and looked a tad slow in the opening set. But his metronomic game eventually clicked and there was little Khachanov could do to stop his opponent's march into the last four.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Elina Svitolina accused Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka of adding fuel to the fire by standing at the net waiting for a handshake she knew would never happen at the end of their French Open quarter-final.

Svitolina had warned she would not shake hands with players from Russia or Belarus over the war in Ukraine.

"I don't know, to be fair, what she was waiting for, because my statements were clear enough about the handshake," Svitolina, who was booed by the crowd as she walked straight to her bench after losing the match 6-4, 6-4, said.

"I was expecting that and it was not a surprise for me," she said of the jeers, which she also received when not shaking hands with Russia's Daria Kasatkina in the previous round.

Czech Karolina Muchova earlier stopped former Roland Garros runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova with a 7-5, 6-2 win to cruise into the semi-finals for the first time in her career.

She will meet Sabalenka for a place in the final.

Updated: June 06, 2023, 5:25 PM