PARIS: Novak Djokovic hit out at Roland Garros officials after his epic five-set defeat to Rafael Nadal on Friday, claiming that his demands for the Court Philippe Chatrier surface to be improved were ignored.
The world number one twice battled from a set and a break down to lead 4-2 in the fifth set before a succession of rows with chair umpire Pascal Maria and tournament supervisor Stefan Fransson threw his challenge off course.
Djokovic claimed that the court was too dry and slippery, making smooth movement across the surface too difficult, and he even summoned Fransson onto the court to vent his frustrations at the court not being watered.
“Off the court I was told that it's the groundstaff who make the final decision on watering. The supervisor said it was him who decides,” said Djokovic, after his 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3/7), 9-7 loss.
“The wind was blowing a lot of clay off the top and after every changeover in the final set I was asking how long are we going to play. The supervisor said he'd talk to the grounds people.
“I was not asking to water the court because I want to make my opponent trip or do something like that. I was doing it for myself, because I felt that it got very dry and it was very slippery.
“If one player says yes to watering of the court and the other says no, in the end whose opinion has more value?
“It takes 30 seconds to one minute to water the court. It was too difficult to change direction. I think it was wrong what they did.”
Djokovic also lost a point when he was a break up at 4-3 and deuce when he collided with the net as he put away a smash which would have put him a point away from being 5-3 ahead.
Nadal said he would have had no problem if the surface had been watered.
“I don't feel it was slippery, but everybody is free to ask the things,” he said.
“Seems like the rule is both players have to agree to put water on the court if it's in the middle of one set.
“I just received one question from the umpire, and I say, I prefer not. But if they put water, I would not say nothing against it.”
Adding to Djokovic's frustrations was Maria giving him a warning for a time violation after he was adjudged to have taken too long to serve. Nadal had earlier been penalised a point for the same offence.
“I haven't seen the replay so I can't really make a judgement on whether he was right or wrong. My argument was that the ball was already out of the court when I touched the net,” said Djokovic whose challenge was undermined by 75 unforced errors.
“Who knows what direction the match may have taken if I had won that point. On 99.9 per cent of other occasions, I would have got the point.”
Djokovic, who still needs a French Open title to complete the career Grand Slam, praised Nadal for battling back to reach an eighth Roland Garros final.
“I congratulate my opponent because he showed courage at the right moments and went for his shots even when he was a break down,” said Djokovic after his fifth loss to Nadal in Paris.
“He fought and showed why he is such a great champion.”
Nadal took his career record at the French Open to 58 wins from 59 matches.
“I gave everything I had. I came back after the third set and played better as the match went on, but it wasn't good enough,” said Djokovic.