World number one Novak Djokovic finally completed in Paris his unfinished business with Pablo Carreno Busta, a month after he was defaulted playing the Spaniard at the US Open.
It was in the fourth round of the tournament. Djokovic carelessly played a ball that hit a female lines judge. He was disqualified, thus gifting his opponent a quarter-finals qualification, with the first set not even completed.
The stage was different today at Roland Garros as Djokovic subdued the Spaniard to reach his 10th French Open semi-final.
But he suffered an injury scare and also had to come from behind before beating Carreno Busta 4-6 6-2 6-3 6-4.
Djokovic laboured hard to overcome apparent physical problems to beat the Spaniard. The top seed wore a tape on the back of his neck and his upper arm required treatment.
Carreno Busta, who lost in the U.S. Open semi-final after leading Alexander Zverev by two sets, took advantage to win the opening set — the first conceded by Djokovic in the tournament.
Djokovic looked flat and had to save break points early in the second set before raising his game at the important moment to win the next two sets.
Carreno Busta hung on gamely but Djokovic was superior when it mattered and one break in the fourth was enough to set up a semi-final clash with Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Djokovic’s dramatic disqualification in New York deprived him of a chance to win an 18th Grand Slam title and move to within one of Rafa Nadal’s haul and two shy of Roger Federer’s men’s record of 20.
He looked relieved after avoiding another shock against the Spaniard he has found such an awkward customer of late.
“Many players have said it before me: these four Grand Slams matter the most in tennis history,” Djokovic said afterwards on Court Philippe Chatrier on another damp and chilly night.
“They are the most popular tennis events in the world and a lot of kids dream of winning them.”
Djokovic looked stiff and his swings restricted in the early exchanges and fired a forehand into the net to lose serve at 2-2, but broke back in the eighth game.
However he was banging his racket against his thigh in frustration as he dropped serve again before Carreno Busta held to take the opening set.
The alarm bells were ringing for Djokovic when he faced two break points at 1-1 in the second set but he saved them before raising his level to level the match.
It began to look like plain sailing when he led 3-0 in the third set before a dip allowed Carreno Busta back to 3-3 and the Spaniard wasted a break point when he went for glory on a forehand during a long baseline exchange.
Djokovic then reeled off three games to take the third set but was roaring in frustration as he missed four break points at 1-1 in the fourth and another at 2-2.
He did get the break at 3-3 but still Carreno Busta was dangerous and had chances to respond immediately.
But Djokovic was determined to avoid a late night and completed an often laboured victory with a forehand winner.