What was left? Extraordinary ? Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic had already been last year Porte d’Auteuil, during the four hours of a semi-final immediately ranked in the pantheon of tennis. History? In 58 confrontations between the two men – the most frequent duel of the Open era – the term has already had the opportunity to blacken the pages of sports dailies. Human, perhaps, so much the Spaniard, himself physically diminished this season, seemed to owe his victory to the unconditional support of the public as well as to the flaws of the Serbian world number one, Tuesday, May 31, in the quarter-finals of Roland-Garros ( 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6).
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If the 59e episode of their rivalry will not have reached the heights of their last confrontation in the Parisian Grand Slam, the stands of the central court were able to appreciate an evening rich in twists and turns. They needed that, and some blankets, to warm up in front of this match scheduled at night, due to the agreement concluded since the 2021 edition between the organization and the Amazon Prime Video channel, which had bought the right to broadcast , every evening, the best poster of the day.
Below his standard at the start of the first three innings, Djokovic could not find enough ball depth to hinder Rafael Nadal from the baseline, giving the Mallorcan the opportunity to show the power of his left arm and gratify the stage of some of its “specials”. The Spanish flags could fly during the first hour and a half of the match on the Philippe-Chatrier court. The time needed for the Serb to line up two consecutive games and then emerge victorious, after 17 minutes, from a crucial sixth game in the second set, allowing him to then pick up the score.
The world number one failed to follow up in the next round, stained with unforced errors, and without further managing to consolidate his lead when he dominated the fourth set. After four hours of play, and while the Serb was beginning to show some signs of detachment, Nadal, he always placed his bottles as one would put his pencils on an examination table. “The pressure was on Djokovic, and he unpinned in the tie-break of the last round”, valid Henri Leconte, joining a few regrets captured in the stands shortly after the match point, hit at 1:15 a.m.
Last Roland-Garros for Nadal?
It must be said that the spectators have once again shouted their attachment to the Spaniard, who has become the master of the place over his thirteen trophies in Paris. “The crowd has been amazing from the start, I think they know it’s the most important tournament of my career and I’m not going to play it for very long yet,” exposed Nadal in a press conference. At 35 (he will be 36 on Friday), the left-hander is having a contrasting season, started in the light in Australia, where he became the most successful player in Grand Slams (21, against 20 for Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer). But that he will have spent the rest of the time, like last season already, treating chronic and incurable foot pain, linked to the so-called degenerative disease of Müller-Weiss. “I am not injured, I am a player who lives with this injury”, he explained during the Rome tournament in early May, where he lost in the round of 16.
“It’s not the first time that, a few days after being injured and barely being able to walk, he’s been able to come back fully fit,” reminded Novak Djokovic to the press after his defeat on Tuesday. After being pushed to the fifth set in the round of 16, and fighting 4:12 to get his hands on his quarter-final, Nadal will advance to the last four on Friday against Alexander Zverev, who ended Tuesday after – noon at the course of the future prodigy of Spanish tennis, Carlos Alcaraz (6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6).
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