French Open: Rain keeps Djokovic, Halep off court in wet Paris
Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep have to wait until Thursday to resume their bids to win a second French Open title after rain completely washed out the four remaining Wednesday quarterfinals.
The steady and at times heavy precipitation left players and fans alike with one big headache at the only grand slam which doesn’t have a roof.
That is on the way in 2020, though, and can’t come soon enough.
Play was officially called off around 4:30 p.m. local time in Paris, two-and-a-half hours after matches were due to commence on both Philippe Chatrier court and the secondary Suzanne Lenglen court.
Not a ball was struck, meaning defending champion Halep, world No. 1 Djokovic, Amanda Anisimova, Ashleigh Barty, Madison Keys, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov were all left looking on from the sidelines.
Or make that from the dry locker room.
Wednesday’s matches will now take place Thursday but start two hours earlier at noon, with no players asked to do double duty on the day that was supposed to showcase the women’s semifinals.
The women’s finalist from Halep’s top half of the draw will likely now have to play three consecutive days to end the tournament instead of having the usual day off between the semifinals and final.
The bottom half finalist, meanwhile — either Johanna Konta or Marketa Vondrousova — will have had two days off prior to the semifinals.
The men’s finalist from Djokovic’s top half — expected to be either the world No. 1 or 2018 finalist Thiem — will probably have to play on three of the final four days, with no customary day off between the quarterfinal and semifinal.
That is assuming no more weather delays — and there is a good chance of rain Friday.
“The weather for tomorrow [Thursday] seems to be OK, so we will be able to move on with that schedule,” tournament director Guy Forget said in a press conference. “If we achieve that, it’s a good start. Then we will worry about Friday after that.”
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, already through on Wednesday, will have benefited from two days off ahead of their blockbuster semifinal Friday.
If Djokovic defeats Zverev, the Serb would reach the semifinals at the French Open for the first time since completing his grand slam collection in Paris in 2016.
Zverev a test for Djokovic?
It was also where Djokovic won a fourth straight major, becoming the first man to do so since Rod Laver in 1969.
Djokovic’s opponent, though, has beaten him in two of their four meetings and justifiably silenced critics — for the time being — who questioned his credentials at grand slams.
The fifth-ranked German is coming off an impressive four-set win over clay danger man Fabio Fognini and is in better shape physically than last year when he fell to Thiem in the quarterfinals, hindered by a hamstring injury. He had played three straight five-set duels.
The 22-year-old has downed Djokovic in their two biggest clashes, in the Rome final on clay in 2017 and in last year’s year-end championship finale in London. Djokovic has won their other two encounters.
“Obviously last year’s quarterfinal was very unfortunate to me, very sad, the ending, with an injury,” said Zverev.
“Hopefully this year will be different, and it will be a great match.”
Djokovic is unquestionably in better form than 12 months ago.
Back then he was seeded 20th, months after having elbow surgery, and suffered a shock quarterfinal defeat to relative unknown Marco Cecchinato that left him annoyed.
Djokovic has barely broken a sweat this fortnight, not conceding more than four games in any set as he attempts to win four straight majors for a second time.
He wasn’t worried about not being pushed ahead of the big test Zverev could give him.
“I have played plenty of, I think, tight matches in my career that I can rely on that experience,” the 15-time grand slam winner said. “I think it’s good to be tested from that perspective, but at the same time, it’s also good to cruise along and kind of conserve the energy for what’s coming up.”
Nadal could be coming up Sunday in the final.
Another teenager for Halep
Halep confronts the youngest player remaining in the draw in 17-year-old Anisimova. Not since Martina Hingis in 1998 had a player that young advanced to this stage in Paris.
Anisimova is a fan of Halep’s two-handed backhand and has a fine two-hander of her own.
But Halep is fresh off a 6-1 6-0, 45-minute demolition of another teenager, Iga Swiatek.
“If you’re in the second week, your expectations are bigger,” said Halep. “So I expect more from myself.
“Next round is just a big challenge to go through this tournament.”
Mother Nature proved to be a challenge that couldn’t be overcome Wednesday.