Home Play by Mail Nadal beats Djokovic in thriller at Roland-Garros

Nadal beats Djokovic in thriller at Roland-Garros


Spaniard Rafael Nadal celebrates his quarter-final victory against Serbian Novak Djokovic on May 31, 2022.YVES HERMAN/Reuters

Rafael Nadal insists he can’t know for sure if a match at Roland Garros could be his very last in a place he loves, a place he loves.

For now, if he keeps winning and keeps playing like he did in his monumental quarter-final win over longtime rival Novak Djokovic that started in May and ended in June , Nadal will have more chances to play.

With a mix of brilliant shooting and his trademark resilience, Nadal overtook reigning French Open champion Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) to edge closer to his 14th championship. at the Grand Slam tournament on clay and what would be a 22nd major trophy overall, adding to the records he already has.

“One of those magical nights for me,” Nadal said.

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For anyone lucky enough to be there too – provided they were able to stay awake – or even those watching from afar. The game started a little after 9 p.m. Tuesday and ended more than four hours later, after 1 a.m. Wednesday.

“TV decides,” Djokovic said of the late start. “This is the world we live in.”

The support said it was a quarter-final, yes, but it felt like a final, from the quality of play to the quality of effort, from the anticipation that preceded it to the atmosphere that wrapped.

The only missing ingredient: No trophy was awarded to the winner.

Nadal turns 36 on Friday when he faces third-seeded Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals. When the subject of Nadal’s future came up during his on-court interview, he smiled.

“By the way, see you in two days,” Nadal said. “That’s the only thing I can say.”

It will be tough for any game the rest of the way to live up to this one.

Nary a play, a point, a shot or, indeed, a step came with a hint of recklessness. Both men gave their all. Nothing came easily.

Nadal’s 3-0 lead in the second set didn’t do him any good; Djokovic ended up taking it and later said, “I was like, ‘OK, I’m back in the game.'”

But Djokovic’s 3-0 lead in the fourth did him no good, even though he served at 5-3, even staying within a point of forcing a fifth twice. Nadal saved those set points and broke into them, then ran away with the closing tiebreaker, grabbing a 6-1 advantage and never losing focus after his first three match points had gone wrong.

“I lost to a better player today,” said Djokovic, who had won 22 straight sets until the 49-minute opener against Nadal. “I had my chances. I haven’t used them. That’s it.”

The matchup was their 59th, more than two other men have faced each other in the Open era. Nadal reduced Djokovic’s series lead to 30-29 while improving to 8-2 against his rival at Roland Garros.

Nadal is now 110-3 for his career there. Two of those defeats have come against Djokovic, including in last year’s semi-finals. This time, Nadal made sure Djokovic stays behind him in the Slam tally with 20. Nadal broke their three-way tie with Roger Federer at that number by winning the Australian Open in January, when Djokovic didn’t could not play because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Before Nadal reached his 15th semi-final in Paris, Zverev reached his second in a row by beating 19-year-old rising star Carlos Alcaraz 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7 ).

“It doesn’t really get any easier from here,” Zverev said after ending Alcaraz’s 14-game winning streak.

“I told him at net, ‘You’re going to win this tournament many times, not just once,’ said Zverev, a 2020 US Open runner-up and Tokyo Olympics gold medalist last summer. “J hope I can win before he starts…beat us all.”

In the women’s game on Tuesday, 18-year-old American Coco Gauff and 28-year-old Italian Martina Trevisan reached their first Grand Slam semifinals. Gauff, seeded 18, beat Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion and 2018 French Open runner-up, 7-5, 6-2, while Treviso, 59, eliminated the runner-up from the US Open Leylah Fernandez 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-3.

The last drink was reserved for two players who know each other so well. Trends and tactics. manners and moods.

It’s no surprise, then, that they engaged in points so involved, so long – 57 over at least nine shots, including one that lasted 25 – that before some were concluded, people in the stands let out a gasp or an “Aaaah!” ” or “Awwww!”, drawing scolding hisses of “Shhhhh!” in response.

Chair umpire Damien Dumusois might have set a record, if such records had been kept, mostly saying “Please”, to implore spectators to calm down and allow the game to continue. Continue.

Nadal heard a lot more support in the form of shouts of “Ra-fa!” or “Vamos!” or “Te quiero!” It wasn’t until Djokovic started to assert himself in the second set that his nickname “No-le!” heard with any frequency.

As time passed and the air grew colder – below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius) – Nadal and Djokovic embodied the clay-colored capitalized words in French and English along the siding of the lower level of the arena, attributed to Roland Garros, the First World War fighter pilot who gave his name to the installation: “Victory belongs to the most tenacious.”

Early and late, it was Nadal who took over the back and forth from the baseline, pushing and pulling Djokovic one way or another, up and down, until what an opening for a clean victor presents itself. Djokovic reacted to his mistakes by rolling his eyes, shaking his head, or holding out his palms as if to say, “What’s going on?

Nadal has shown no signs of being slowed down or bothered a bit by chronic pain in his left foot which erupts from time to time and kept him from going around for the last half of 2021 and reappeared ahead of the Open of France.

Nadal also didn’t betray a trace of fatigue from his five-set tussle against No.9 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round on Sunday which lasted 4 hours and 21 minutes, nearly twice as long. than the concrete victory of Djokovic that day.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Djokovic said. “It’s not the first time he’s been able, a few days after being injured and barely walking, to come out 100 per cent physically fit.”