As the two biggest opponents in men’s tennis met at the French Open once again, a lot of factors pointed in his favour Novak Djokovic. While he and Rafael Nadal have reached a clay-court season full of uncertainty, only Djokovic has taken notable strides forward since then. Meanwhile, Nadal is still searching for his best form after breaking his rib. His preparation was complicated as his chronic foot injury flared up. His level in Paris has been, so far, below par.
But this is Rafael Nadal. In Roland Garros (ed.). He’s the guy who’s won 110 at home with just three losses, and who has shown over his 17 years there that shape and other petty trivia are of little importance in the face of unprecedented complete dominance. In the match that began in May and ended in June, Nadal fired away in the early stages, then absorbed several powerful responses and massive pressure before rising to win 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4). ) four hours and 11 minutes later at 1:15 a.m. local time.
“It was a very difficult match,” Nadal said. “Novak is one of the best players in history without a doubt. Playing against him is always an amazing challenge. All the history we have together, today was another history.”
In the 59th encounter of a historical never-ending competition, Nadal moved on to 29-30 against Djokovic in a head-to-head confrontation. He will face Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals, who played the best Grand Slam match of his career Carlos Alcaraz frequently overtakesruled out the hype surrounding him as he won 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7).
Nadal hit his court and set the tone right from the start, working his way inside the baseline and looking to unload with a forehand down the line, the historic measure of his confidence. During several early matches, Nadal broke Djokovic in the opening match after several stumbles. With Nadal’s impressive progression through the opening set, Djokovic struggled. Hit his backhand with unusual forcible fouls, the replay fell short, and he struggled to keep up with Nadal’s 6-2, 3-0 lead with a double break.
It was only a matter of time before Djokovic asserted himself, and in this moment he did. He hit Nadal’s serve on his return and slowly moved over the baseline where he was the one who dictated the exchanges, crushing the ball and thrusting Nadal’s forehand. He won six of the next seven matches to settle the match, but it was won by an endless series of brutal devil games over an 88-minute period.
Djokovic’s level rose sharply, but did not last. Nadal opened the third set by constantly looking to find the net and dominated Djokovic below par throughout the set. But the momentum continued to swing. Djokovic returned to respond after returning from his serve and when he broke his serve in Nadal’s opener in the fourth game, he again returned to the top of the baseline, pressing down on Nadal and giving himself a chance to serve the set. He took a 5-2 lead, but Nadal pulled off, saving two set points at 5-3 and then hitting a forehand from the inside out to break.
As the fourth set tiebreak began, Nadal rose. He has been adjusting his forward timing better than at any time since the opening set. He hit three forehand winners in a row to start the tiebreak and with each point the task before Djokovic became increasingly bleak. The No. 1 shirt holder recovered three match points from 1-6, but his time at Nadal’s home this year ended with a resounding backhand knockout from the Spaniard’s racket.
“To beat Novak, there is only one way: play your best from the first point to the last point. Today was one of those nights for me. An unexpected level but I am very happy,” Nadal said.
After that, Djokovic admitted he was the second-best player of the day: “I know I could have played better,” he said. “I am proud to fight and stay until the last shot. Like I said, I lost today to a better player. It was my chance. You didn’t use it. That is. A fight that lasted more than four hours, and I have to accept this defeat.”
Over the course of the week, Nadal suggested it French Open It may be the last time in light of his chronic injury to his foot, as he navigates the French Open with added emotion: “I enjoy every day I get the chance to be here, and without thinking too much about what could happen in the future, he said. Of course I will continue to fight for finding a solution [the foot]But for now, we don’t. So just giving myself a chance to play another semi-final here at Roland Garros is a lot of energy for me.”