When the two biggest competitors met at the French Open again, many 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 it is Nadal at Roland Garros, the man who has won 110 at home with just three defeats, and who has shown over the course of 17 years that form and other petty trivia are of little importance in the face of total and unprecedented dominance. . In the match that began in May and ended in June, Nadal fired away in the early stages, then absorbed several powerful responses before rising to win 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4).
In the historic 59th meeting of the never-ending competition, Nadal moved to 29-30 against Djokovic in the head-to-head record. He will face Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals, who played the best big match of his career as he stifled uproar and Carlos Alcaraz frequently overtakesruled out the hype surrounding him as he won 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7).
When they met each other for the first time in their careers in 2006 on these courts and on this particular tour, Nadal was a one-time Grand Slam champion while Djokovic represented Serbia And the the black Mountain. Sixteen years later, the occasion marked the first time in the open era that two players with 20 Grand Slam titles had faced each other.
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. He was moving very well, constantly grappling under great pressure early on. During several early matches, Nadal broke Djokovic in the opening match after several draws and then immediately reinforced it.
When Djokovic scored break points in his second match with a short burst of spotless comeback, Nadal got up to take them down on the spot and broke for a second with a resounding forehand winning knockout.
In those early stages, when the superb Nadal took over the group, Djokovic struggled. His back hand splashed out with unusual, non-coercive blunders, his returns fell briefly, and he was struggling to keep up. Nadal punished him accordingly, winning four of Djokovic’s first six on-serving matches and making 6-2, 3-0 with a double break.
It was only a matter of time before Djokovic confirmed himself in the match, and in this moment he did. Djokovic hit Nadal’s serve on his return and slowly moved up the baseline because he was the one who dictated the exchanges, smashing the ball and Nadal rushing forward as the Spaniard started the ball short. Despite his manner in six of the next seven matches, they played an endless string of brutal matches as Djokovic leveled the match.
Djokovic’s level rose sharply, but did not last. Nadal opened the third set by constantly looking to get into the net and immediately broke again. As he did, Djokovic struggled to keep up. He played a 3-1 sloppy match, displaying a double break with a back foul. With Djokovic’s errors continuing to flow, there will be no response in the third set.
But the momentum continued to swing. Djokovic hit back after returning from his serve, and he hit countless returns at Nadal’s feet. When he broke his serve in Nadal’s opening service match, he was back at the top of the baseline, pressing down on Nadal and giving himself a chance to serve the set. But Nadal netted, saved two set points and then hit a forehand inverted to break the serve.
As the fourth set tiebreak began, Nadal stepped up. 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. His time at Nadal’s house this year ended with a resounding backhand knockout of the Spaniard’s racket.
Earlier on Tuesday night, Zverev played one of the best big games of his young career, staying true to Alcaraz and overcoming the hype around him as he won 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7). . With his victory, Zverev achieved an outstanding achievement by claiming a Top Ten win at a Grand Slam for the first time in his career.
More importantly, once the youngsters hoped for the Tour himself, Zverev gave a clear reminder of his abilities and the threat he poses to the best players at the top of his game. Meanwhile, the kart fought to the end and left his first major tournament with a lesson that would only further his growth. “I leave the field, I leave the tournament with his head too high,” Alcaraz said. “I fight to the last ball. I fought until the last second of the match, and I am proud of that.”