Fighting for his 19th Grand Slam title, the Serb was forced to dig deep to fend off the resurgent Berrettini and eventually won 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5) 7-5.
The match had looked like a formality to Djokovic who stormed its way through the first two sets, but Berrettini rallied in the third set and ensured an exciting conclusion to the quarter-finals, in which even the world’s number 1 cut wounds after a dramatic fall Hands suffered.
Both players also struggled with a game interruption in the middle of the fourth set as fans were obliged to leave according to the Covid-19 curfew at 11 p.m. in Paris.
A group of fans remained seated booing the instructions, forcing both players off the pitch until the stadium was cleared.
Despite the distractions, the fiery Djokovic used a third match point in the fourth set and triggered wild cheers in the direction of his penalty area.
“This game had everything: falls, crowd, break,” Djokovic told reporters after the game. “It was a lot of intensity. I just felt tense the whole time and missed some chances to finish it in three.
“It was just super, super stressful to be under constant pressure […] The only reaction in the end was that I released the tension that was building up throughout the game. “
Djokovic will now face Rafael Nadal on Friday for a place in the final at Roland Garros. The two have enjoyed an intense rivalry throughout their careers, with Djokovic leading the neck-to-neck race at 29:28.
However, Nadal is dominant on clay and won his 13th French Open title last October by beating Djokovic in the final.
“It’s not like any other game. Let’s be honest, it’s the biggest challenge you can have on this pitch against Nadal on clay. It doesn’t get any bigger,” said Djokovic after his quarter-final victory.
“There’s that extra tension and expectation. The mood is different when you run with him on the pitch. But that’s why our rivalry for this sport is historic, I think.”
“I’m confident. I think I can win or I wouldn’t be here. Let’s have a big fight.”