PARIS—Is there anyone better at stepping up in tie-breaks than Novak Djokovic?

On Tuesday, the two-time Roland Garros champion blanked Karen Khachanov in a crucial second-set tiebreaker, then pulled away from the No. 11 seed for a 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-4 victory.

“It was probably the turning point of the match. Winning the second set or losing the second set would be quite a big difference,” Djokovic said in press afterwards. “Probably two different matches in one. First couple sets, probably the worst two sets I played so far in the tournament. And then the third and fourth were quite good.”

The result impressively saw Djokovic reach his 45th career major semifinal from 55 quarterfinal appearances, moving him to within one of the all-time men’s mark, held by Roger Federer. The 36-year-old also celebrated his 90th win at Roland Garros, the first time he’s reached that figure at one of the Grand Slam tournaments (he holds 89 victories at the Australian Open, and can reach 90 at Wimbledon with four wins in London this year). He is now two victories away from becoming the first man to both win 23 majors and hold at least three trophies from every Grand Slam event.

Djokovic awaits the winner of world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and the man he beat from two sets down in the 2021 final, Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Spaniard and Greek are due to face off in Tuesday's night session.

Djokovic is now 25-4 in 2023.

Djokovic is now 25-4 in 2023.


For nearly two hours, Khachanov was the competitor dictating the bulk of the rallies on Court Philippe Chatrier. Getting significantly more cuts on his forehand than Djokovic, the Russian turned an early break into a one-set lead to snap Djokovic’s run of 29 successive sets won on the Grand Slam stage—and carried his form on serve across set two in his bid to stretch his advantage.

“Everything was going in a great direction and then I stepped out on the court today and probably part of me stayed in the locker room. That's how I felt, that's how I played,” said Djokovic.

“But also credit to Karen for serving well, playing well. I made so many unforced errors, had a terrible start. That happens.”

Despite not initially clicking the way he wanted in their exchanges, Djokovic pressed forward on the variety front. Moon balls to reset points returned as one tactic, as did trademark assertive serve +1 combinations when his serve was under pressure.


When the tie-break commenced, Djokovic seized the moment. A screaming backhand pass up the line sealed his first mini break, and high looper set up a forehand ripper to make it 3-0. The perfect breaker was completed when Djokovic capped a point with a finish at the net.

“I must say I played a perfect tie-break, 7-Love. Every point was perfectly scripted for me, so to say,” assessed Djokovic. “Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. I think I was lucky that throughout my career I have a very good and positive score in the tie-breaks. My opponents know that, and I know that. So I think mentally that serves me well.”

As the contest wore on, Djokovic flipped the script in the change-of-pace department. Greater execution and effectiveness of the drop shot transitioned from Khachanov’s racquet to Djokovic’s side of the court, and that shift along with the 22-time major champion finding his rhythm in baseline rallies helped create separation from the Moscow native.

With an early break in hand, Djokovic consolidated for 3-1 in the fourth set by staving off a pair of break points to hold firm in a five-deuce game. A double-fault at 4-3, 30-40 gave his opponent new life—but just temporarily. Djokovic ran off with the final eight points to cross the finish line.

Djokovic, who clubbed 57 winners (including 11 aces) to 42 unforced errors, is now 9-1 against Khachanov and has taken their last eight encounters. He is 5-0 in tie-breaks this fortnight, and as journalist Ravi Ubha pointed out, is yet to make an unforced error in the combined 47 points played in those match situations.