PARIS — Novak Djokovic came 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 US Open this past September and the Australian Open in 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 No. 3-seeded Djokovic now waits to see whether he will face No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz next. Alcaraz, who beat Djokovic on clay at the Madrid Open last year in their only previous encounter, was scheduled to meet No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last men’s quarterfinal Tuesday night.
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’d played in the tournament. But he acknowledged he came out “quite sluggish, quite slow” on Tuesday.
The second set wasn’t ideal, either. Until the tiebreaker, at least. That’s when Djokovic raised his play what he called “a couple of levels higher.”
Well, that’s an understatement.
He did not make a mistake, and didn’t 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 he 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’re not going to have your victories handed over to you,” Djokovic said.
Novak Djokovic rallies to reach French Open semifinals