PARIS (AP) – Novak Djokovic has waited and waited to win his first French Open title and complete a career Grand Slam, worrying about when – or perhaps even whether – he would get another chance after coming close in recent years.
Now Djokovic must ponder all of that a little longer: His semifinal against Andy Murray was suspended in the fourth set Friday night, initially halted because of an impending storm and then put off altogether when the rain did arrive minutes later.
The No. 1-seeded Djokovic won the first two sets 6-3, 6-3 and appeared to be in control, before No. 3 Murray took the third 7-5. At 3-all in the fourth, with dark clouds moving in and light fading, they were ushered off the court. Djokovic and Murray will resume Saturday at 1 p.m. local time, a little more than 16 hours after they stopped.
The eventual winner will face a much-more-rested Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland in Sunday’s final.
The eighth-seeded Wawrinka, who eliminated Roger Federer in the quarterfinals, followed that up by defeating France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (3), 6-4 in Friday’s opening semifinal. Wawrinka succeeded largely on the strength of one statistic: He saved 16 of 17 break points.
There were a few whistles and jeers directed at Wawrinka after he ended Tsonga’s bid to give France a men’s champion at its own tournament, something that last happened when Yannick Noah won in 1983.
“Jo is always a tough player to play,” Wawrinka said, “especially when he’s playing at home.”
The first chants of “Son-gah! Son-gah!” accompanied by rhythmic clapping arrived before the first point was played, and they returned over and over at key junctures, as did yells of “Allez, Jo!” and other support for Tsonga that prompted the chair umpire to ask for quiet.
The temperature topped 90 degrees (32 Celsius) at Court Philippe Chatrier, and the players wrapped towels filled with ice around their necks at changeovers to try to cool off.
“Heat didn’t bother me,” Tsonga said. “My opponent made my life difficult.”
A year ago, after winning the Australian Open championship, Wawrinka lost in the first round in Paris. Now he’s into his first French Open final and second at a major.
For Djokovic, so much is at stake this weekend.
Finish off Murray, and he would face Wawrinka with a chance to become only the eighth man in tennis history to own at least one trophy from each of the sport’s four most prestigious tournaments, adding to his five from the Australian Open, two from Wimbledon and one from the U.S. Open.
It would be Djokovic’s third appearance in the final in Paris.
He lost in 2012 and 2014 to Rafael Nadal, the nine-time champion whose 39-match Roland Garros winning streak was ended by Djokovic in this year’s quarterfinals.
Entering Friday, Djokovic was 40-2 this season, with 27 victories in a row.
He looked like that same, dominant player for the first two sets against Murray, a two-time major champion trying to become the first British man to reach the final in Paris since 1937.
But the Serb’s form began to dip in the third set, while Murray started to play better and better and tried to rile the crowd by motioning for more support. Murray broke Djokovic for the first time to go ahead 6-5 in the third, then served that set out at love – the first set Djokovic dropped over these two weeks.
After that, Djokovic went off the court to visit with a trainer, perhaps for treatment on the groin muscle problem he dealt with earlier in the tournament. Starting in the second set, and continuing into the third, Djokovic did deep knee bends and flexed his hips and upper legs.
The match was becoming more competitive, and the second game of the fourth set was tremendous. Djokovic held three break points, but failed to convert any. On one, a 34-stroke exchange that was the day’s longest, he put a forehand into the net. A too-long forehand ended a 28-stroke exchange on the game’s last point.
That was part of a run of nine consecutive points for Murray, who broke Djokovic at love to lead 2-1. But Djokovic is nothing if not a fighter, and when Murray dumped a forehand into the net, another break made it 2-all. Djokovic pumped his right fist and looked up at his guest box, where his wife stood, clapping and yelling.
They’ll all be back Saturday for more.