In a briefly, frighteningly reminiscent scene, Novak Djokovic stretched out his right arm to return a serve in his French Open fourth-round match against Russian Karen Khachanov. Djokovic got his racket on the ball, but it careened directly into a service linesperson’s mask-covered face.
Fortunately, the linesperson appeared to be fine. Djokovic checked on the official sitting across from the service line, and play continued.
“My gosh, it was very awkward déjà vu,” Djokovic said in obvious reference to his U.S. Open fourth-round default last month. “I’m actually trying to find the linesperson and see if he’s OK because I saw he had a little bit of a bruise, like redness, in that place in the head where the ball hit him. I hope he’s fine. I mean, he definitely dealt with it in a very strong and brave way.”
The top seed Djokovic went on to sweep the 15th seed Khachanov 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, advancing to the quarterfinals without dropping a set in four matches. He next gets 17th seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain, the man on the other side of the net for that lamentable U.S. Open incident.
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The only foe to defeat Djokovic in 2020 was his own temper.
In this same fourth round at the U.S. Open last month, Djokovic struck a ball in at least frustration, arguably anger, after having his serve broken. The ball struck a linesperson in the throat, though it was not his intention. He was defaulted from the tournament for what happened, given he struck a ball outside of in-match play that hit an official.
Djokovic was at no fault for what happened Monday, when a well-placed serve gave him little control over his return shot. These things happen.
“Obviously because of what happened in New York, people I guess are going to make the story out of this,” he said. “It has happened to me and to many other players in the last 15 years that I’ve been on the tour. I’ve seen it a lot when the ball ricochets from the racket and the frame, hits someone in the stands, or someone that is close to you or line umpire. Yeah, it was a very awkward situation obviously.”
Djokovic continued a march to what could be a showdown with Rafael Nadal in a Sunday final. The Serbian is going for his 18th Grand Slam singles title, which would move him one behind Nadal and two behind male record holder Roger Federer.
Nadal eyes a 13th French Open crown, which would tie him with Federer in the total major titles count for the first time since they both had zero.
Also Monday, No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and No. 13 Andrey Rublev advanced to play each other for the second time since the French Open began. They meet in a Wednesday quarterfinal, 10 days after they played in a clay-court final in Hamburg, Germany, on the same day that play started at Roland Garros.
The Tsitsipas-Rublev winner could play Djokovic in the semifinals.
In the women’s draw, No. 4 Sofia Kenin rallied past 49th-ranked Frenchwoman Fiona Ferro 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, with 17 winners and four unforced errors in the last set. Kenin, the Australian Open champion, gets No. 30 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia or 57th-ranked American Danielle Collins in the quarterfinals.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova made her first French Open quarterfinal in eight years. She gets 66th-ranked German Laura Siegemund.
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