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Novak Djokovic lucky to escape being defaulted as he reaches last four

By Paul Newman

Published 03/06/2016

Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Tomas Berdych during their men's quarter-final match at the Roland Garros yesterday
Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Tomas Berdych during their men's quarter-final match at the Roland Garros yesterday

Novak Djokovic is through to the semi-finals of the French Open for the sixth year in a row but might instead have been on a flight back home had it not been for the alertness and swift reactions of a line judge.

Early in the third set of his 6-3 7-5 6-3 victory at Roland Garros over Tomas Berdych, the World No.1 swung his racket towards the ground in frustration after putting a forehand in the net.

The racket flew out of his hand and would have hit a line judge but for the official's evasive action. If the racket had hit the line judge, Djokovic may well have been defaulted.

Players have been defaulted following similar incidents in the past. Tim Henman was defaulted at Wimbledon in 1995 after hitting a ball girl when knocking away a ball in frustration during a doubles match, while David Nalbandian was defaulted from the 2012 Aegon Championships final at Queen's Club after kicking an advertising board which broke and injured the line judge who was sitting behind it.

Djokovic, who will face Austria's Dominic Thiem in today's semi-final, tried to make light of the incident.

"I threw a racket on the ground and it slipped and almost hit the line umpire," he said. "I was lucky there. That's all." When it was put to him that he had been fortunate, he replied sarcastically: "Yeah, I'm lucky. Great."

• Serena Williams mounted a fightback to defeat Yulia Putintseva in the quarter-finals.

The World No.1 headed into the last eight as a huge favourite to successfully defend her title but was panicky throughout the first two sets against 60th-ranked Putintseva and escaped with a 5-7 6-4 6-1 victory.

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