By Martyn Herman
PARIS (Reuters) - With his hopes of a French Open final fading, Novak Djokovic even requested to have the Chatrier Court surfaced hosed down as he withered in the face of a Rafa Nadal firestorm on Friday.
Djokovic complained he was struggling to stand up as Nadal roared back from a fifth-set deficit to win 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7(3) 9-7 on a sun-baked center court but it had nothing to do with the energy-sapping rallies that stretched the elastic-limbed Serb to the limit.
"I was not asking to water the court because I want to make my opponent trip or do something like that," Djokovic, whose request was declined by tournament referee Stefan Fransson, told reporters. "I was doing it for myself, because I felt that it got very dry and it was very slippery.
"There was also a lot of wind throughout the whole match, so the wind was taking out the clay from the court. I thought I made a right argument at the time.
"If I'm asking them to water the court, it would take another 30 seconds or one minute on the changeover, and I believe it would change a lot.
"It was difficult to change direction. I just don't understand. I think that it's wrong what they did."
Nadal was asked whether he wanted the dusty court surface sprinkled but said no.
Both players must agree before the surface is watered.
"I don't feel it was slippery," Nadal said. "But everybody is free to ask the things. It is completely right that Novak asked for that. I didn't want water on court."
Djokovic and Nadal were both warned for slow play during the epic, with Nadal also being docked a point.
The Serb also had a lively discussion with the umpire when he was ruled to have collided with the net while putting away a smash at 4-3 in the fifth set.
Instead of having a game point for a 5-3 lead Djokovic was pegged back to 4-4 as Nadal took advantage of his let-off.
"My argument was that the ball was already outside of the court," Djokovic said. "I know the rule is if you touch the net before the second bounce then you're losing the point.
"I don't know if it's taken into consideration if the ball is already out of dimension of the court.
"Who knows, which direction that would go if I won that point. I should have won that point 99.9 percent of times."
(Editing by Alison Wildey)