Rafael Nadal beats Felix Agar-Aliasime in five sets to play Novak Djokovic

Only third-seeded Rafael Nadal has played 112 career matches at the Roland Garros, when the sun and temperature have dropped and “Ra-Fa! Ra-fa! ” Filled with the evening breeze, the man known as the King of the Earth showed her exactly what it meant.

Each sprint-slides-and-expands to reach the seemingly inaccessible shot of his opponent, Felix Agar-Aliasim’s yellow racket; With each right-to-a-corner winner; With each well-hitting volley, Nadal would jump up or throw the uppercut or “Vamos!” Shout – And, often, all of the above.

In his first serious test at the French Open, Nadal lost to No. 9 seed Agar-Aliasime 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, about 4 1/2 hours in equal, entertaining intervals. Tennis in the fourth round on Sunday on the court of Philip Chatterjee.

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“Honestly, every match I’ve played here, I don’t know if this is going to be my last match at Roland Garros. … Now this is my situation, “said Nadal, 36, on Friday.” So I’m trying to enjoy it as much as possible. “

And the reward for coming through? An exciting match against rival Novak Djokovic in Tuesday’s quarter-final.

Nadal improved to 3-0 in five sets of clay-court tournaments in a way that no one else has been able to dominate in a Grand Slam event. Overall he’s 109-3 here, and two of those defeats came against Djokovic, including their most recent showdown in last year’s semifinals.

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Significance of competition: Tuesday’s meeting will be their 59th, more than any other two men in the professional era of the sport. Although Nadal has a 7-2 advantage at the French Open, Djokovic leads 30-28.

“We have a lot of history together,” said Nadal, who reached the Champions League final with a win over his favorite club Real Madrid on Saturday night and did not return home after midnight.

Looking at the bigger picture, Nadal’s record of 13 championships, previously ranked No. 1 in the Roland Garros, is part of his 21 Grand Slam trophies, a record for men. Djokovic, a two-time French Open champion, is currently just one behind Nadal in the total number of slams at No. 1, tied at 20 with Roger Federer.

Djokovic defeated 15th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 early on Sunday and won all 12 sets he has played in the tournament.

“It’s a huge challenge,” Djokovic said of Nadal’s game, and perhaps the biggest challenge you can get here at Roland Garros. I’m ready for it. “

In the other half of the men’s bracket, Alexander Zaverev, No. 3, and Carlos Alcaraz, No. 6, or Karen Khachanov, No. 21, in the other quarter-finals.

Two women’s quarterfinals were also set: 18-year-old Coco Goff against 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in an all-American matchup and 2021 US Open runners-up Canada’s Leila Fernandez against 59th-ranked Martina Travisan of Italy.

The remaining matches of the fourth round are on Monday.

Temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius) and 10 miles (15 km) of wind can make it difficult for any of them to survive with what Nadal and Agar-Aliasim produced when they move around 9 p.m. Condemnation

Wrapped in souvenir orange French Open towels and blankets of different colors, the audience applauded every last drop of the play, both singing the first names of the players and stepping on their feet to applaud the many spectacular exchanges. One of the spectators, however, did not make it to the fifth set: Tony Nadal, who is Rafael’s uncle and has won him 16 Grand Slam titles but is now assisting coach Agar-Aliasime. Uncle Tony, as he is known to many, would stay away from the guest boxes of both players – how could he choose a party? – And instead of sitting in the front row right behind one of the baselines, both men show no joy at anyone’s mistake until they applaud the winner and leave at the beginning of the decision-making set.

She missed quite a finish.

Nadal used increasingly offensive tactics, moving forward whenever possible and hitting any short ball from his enemy. Returning 4-3, Nadal tore off his left wrist for the forehand passing winner who kept screaming and punching him – and leaving 2021 US Open semifinalist Agar-Aliasim but 0-2 for his career at the French Open so far this year, His head is hanging.

This gave Nadal two break points and he converted the second with the backhand winner. Soon, it was all over.

“He raised his level when needed,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Nadal did not miss a single set in the tournament until he faced 21-year-old Agar-Aliasim of Canada, equipped with a big serve and forehand.

“I’m in pain,” Nadal said.

Since the start of the season with a 20-0 record, including the Australian Open title in January, when Djokovic has not been allowed to participate due to not being vaccinated against Kovid-19, Nadal has dealt with a recurrence of rib injuries and chronic pain. His left leg that has been bothering him for years. He has repeatedly said in Paris that he had no idea how well he could play.

It was impossible to know if he hit on Sunday – and more, impossible to say. His movements were uninterrupted, his relentlessness intact.

He will have time to recover and prepare himself to fight Djokovic, who spent about half his time in court on Sunday.

“These are special matches,” Nadal said. “I don’t know what I need to do to defeat someone like Novak, but I’m going to try.”

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