PARIS (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic’s muted celebrations after ending Rafa Nadal’s reign as claycourt king were partly out of respect for his Spanish victim but mainly due to the fact the his French Open mission is far from accomplished.
In beating nine-times champion Nadal, Djokovic scaled what had previously been an insurmountable barrier at Roland Garros.
It earned him only high praise, though, not the title he craves to complete his collection of majors.
Andy Murray, his opponent in the semi-final, perhaps poses an even greater threat to the rampant Serb who is on a 27-match unbeaten streak in Tour matches.
The way Murray dispatched David Ferrer in the quarter-finals, and the way he beat Nadal to win the Madrid title, suggests that he can wreck Djokovic’s dream.
Even if Djokovic wins, there would still be the small matter of beating either Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Swiss eighth seed Stanislas Wawrinka in the final.
Tsonga shoulders the weight of a nation on his shoulders as France awaits its first men’s winner at the home slam since Yannick Noah in 1983.
For Djokovic, the pressure all comes from within as he tries to become only the eighth man to win all four slams.
He extended his claycourt run this season to 15-0 when he swept aside Nadal on Wednesday, but Murray has won all 15 claycourt matches he has contested this season -- evidence that the surface no longer messes around with his head.
“He’s been playing some really good tennis. He’s moving better, serving very well, and he always had a touch, one of the best groundstrokes in the game for the last 10 years since he’s been playing,” Djokovic said of Murray.
Murray, trying to become the first British man to reach the French Open semis since 1937, said he feels confident, but dismisses suggestions that Djokovic may have peaked too early.
“I don’t think there are any negatives that you can have from winning against someone that has won this event nine times and beating them in straight sets,” Murray, who is coached by French former women’s number one Amelie Mauresmo, said.
“I‘m not buying that that can be negative in any way.”
Tsonga’s run to the semi-final has been a surprise.
“Nothing to lose, I think. Not much to lose,” Tsonga, the only one of the four men left without a grand slam title, said when asked about the confrontation.
Wawrinka was also not a hot-tip although he did reach the semi-finals in Rome. He said he will not worry about overwhelming support for Tsonga on Friday.
“It doesn’t matter for me. I‘m going to play my tennis. That’s it,” he said.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Martyn Herman