Novak Djokovic perfect in key tiebreaker, nearly perfect in next set of French Open win

Novak Djokovic perfect in key tiebreaker, nearly perfect in next set of French Open win

Novak Djokovic has come back after dropping a set for the first time in the tournament to beat Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-4 at the French Open on Tuesday to reach his 45th career Grand Slam semifinal.Roger Federer holds the men's record of 46 appearances in the final four of a major.

The victory over the 11th-seeded Khachanov, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open last September and the Australian Open this January, put Djokovic in that round for the 12th time at Roland Garros. Only Rafael Nadal has done it more often, with 15 semifinals, he had arthroscopic hip surgery last week and is sitting out this edition of the clay-court major.

The number 3-seeded Djokovic now waits to see whether he will face number 1 Carlos Alcaraz next. Alcaraz, who beat Djokovic on clay at the Madrid Masters last year in their only previous encounter, was scheduled to meet number 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last men's quarterfinal Tuesday night.Number 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka and unseeded Karolina Muchova both reached the women's semifinals in Paris for the first time by winning earlier in the day.

Sabalenka, the reigning champion at the Australian Open, eliminated Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-4, then appeared at a news conference for the first time in nearly a week. Muchova defeated 2021 runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-2.

Djokovic is a two-time champion in Paris, in 2016 and 2021, and is seeking a 23rd Grand Slam trophy overall, which would break a tie with Nadal for the men's record.

Before facing Khachanov, Djokovic had claimed all 12 sets he had played in the tournament. But he acknowledged coming out "quite sluggish, quite slow" on Tuesday.

The second set was not ideal either. Until the tiebreaker, at least. That is when Djokovic raised his play what he called "a couple of levels higher".

Well, that is an understatement.

He did not make a mistake, did not drop a point at all. Indeed, he has gone 5-0 in tiebreakers over the past week-plus, and has not made an unforced error across any of those 47 points.

The mastery continued in the third set. On the 10th point of the opening game, he flubbed a backhand. But then did not commit an unforced error the rest of the way in that set, while compiling 19 winners in that span.

Things appeared to be headed completely his way in the fourth, too, represented by a 4-2 lead. But when he played a shaky game that ended with a double-fault, suddenly it was 4-all.

"A little bit of a scare," Djokovic termed it afterward.

And then? Well, Djokovic turned back into that perfect version of himself, collecting the last eight points -- breaking at love, then holding at love.

"You are not going to have your victories handed over to you," Djokovic said.