Update: Rafael Nadal advanced to the semifinals at Roland-Garros after an epic victory over arch-rival Novak Djokovic.
In their 59th all-time clash, the two men dropped everything in a clash on the court that lasted more than four hours as Djokovic failed to repeat Nadal’s path to the title in last year’s semifinals. .
The Spaniard won four sets 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6 (7-4) in the final four fight against Alexander Zaverev, who had beaten 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz the day before.
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Nadal made his way back to the fourth set as Djokovic surrendered and secured a break to take a 5-3 lead. The Serbian star failed to send it to the fifth set, and the Roland-Garos spectators broke down while serving for the match because Nadal wanted to.
The Spanish icon got it back 5-5 and was then quite dominant in the tie-breaker, with Djokovic making a mini fightback and saving three in a row before setting up five match points at 6-1. However, Nadal kept his nerves and took the last chance of the survey 7-4.
Nadal’s victory from the first meeting of his career at the 2006 French Open took his all-time record against Djokovic to 30-29, while his ground victory against the Serbian star extended to 20-8.
The first two sets between the two legends took about three hours to complete – Nadal’s time-sucking technique inevitably played a role in the court’s extended time.
Nadal broke Djokovic in the opening game of a 10-minute marathon – the first indication that it was going to be a long night at Roland-Garros. The 35-year-old consolidated his position after going 3-1 in the first set about half an hour before the first set was reduced to 6-2 in the 52nd minute.
The second set started just like the first – another 13 minutes of play resulted in another Nadal break.
Nadal went ahead 2-0 then secured a double break for a 3-0 lead race, before Djokovic finally scored a break of his own and kept the serve to work his way back to 2-3.
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That’s when the strategy of delaying Nadal’s time worked – which led to the start of another marathon that lasted more than 18 minutes. During the fifth game, Nadal pushed the boundary, basically the umpire daring to allow him to exceed the serving time. Eventually, the match official called him for a one-time violation, backed by U.S. tennis legend John McEnroe, who commented for Eurosport.
“Is he saying that now?” McEnroe referred to the umpire’s call. “How long has this game been going on so far? 12 minutes? Nadal ignores him.”
However, in the second set of Nadal’s time difference, Djokovic did nothing to stop the pace, as Serb star Nadal kept up the pressure despite the break, winning 6-4 frames in 75 minutes.
Nadal defeated Djokovic in the opening game of the third set after surrendering his second set to win the third set 6-2.
BBC commentator David Law told the tennis podcast that the Spanish star looked dangerous.
“Looking at the stadium and tonight is an uncomfortable sound for the way Nadal is hitting the ball. It’s different. Terrible. But also satisfying,” Law said.
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