Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic in classic Roland Garros quarter-final |  ATP circuit

Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic in classic Roland Garros quarter-final | ATP circuit

Rafael Nadal won the 59th leg of his storied rivalry against Novak Djokovic, advancing to the Roland Garros semi-finals with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) victory in a match that started Tuesday evening. and finished after 1 a.m. Wednesday in Paris.

The Spaniard led by a set and a double break before Djokovic came level again, but Nadal reasserted himself with a dominant third set. It was the world No. 1 who started strongest in the fourth, but Nadal denied his attempt to serve the set and powered to victory in a one-sided tie-break.

Nadal is getting some revenge after his semi-final defeat a year ago at Roland Garros – the last meeting between the two. By ending Djokovic’s title defense, Nadal moves two wins closer to a record 14th Roland Garros title and a 22nd Major crown. If Djokovic had advanced, he would have had a golden opportunity to match Nadal by winning his 21st Grand Slam title.

“He showed why he is a great champion,” Djokovic said in his post-match press conference. “To stay there mentally and finish the game the way he did. Congratulations to him and his team. He definitely deserved it.”

The Spaniard has now won consecutive matches lasting over four hours. After beating Félix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday after four hours and 20 minutes, he passed Djokovic in four hours and 11 minutes. Nadal entered the tournament under a cloud of doubt due to his chronic foot injury and only played two clay-court events before Roland Garros after a six-week layoff with a broken rib. But he looked as fit as ever as he improved to 15-1 in the Roland Garros quarter-final.

After two days off, Nadal will face Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals after the third-seeded German knocked out Carlos Alcaraz earlier on Tuesday.

Djokovic entered the quarter-finals on a nine-fight winning streak, winning 22 consecutive sets since his triumph at the ATP Masters 1000 in Rome. He was also on an 11-game winning streak at Roland Garros, equaling his longest run in Paris (2016-17).

While Nadal and Djokovic are familiar foes – especially at Roland Garros, where Nadal now holds an 8-2 head-to-head advantage – their quarter-final is also a match of historic firsts: it’s the first time in the Open era that a men’s match featured two men with at least 20 Grand Slam wins, 1,000 match wins or 300 Grand Slam match wins.

First series

Both Nadal and Djokovic put on a show in the opening set of their Roland Garros quarter-final, but Nadal hit the early hard knocks to win it, 6-2. While the score was one-sided, the majority of the exchanges were thrilling back and forth, with both men battling for supremacy in a high-octane chess match from the baseline.

The Spaniard broke serve in a 10-minute opener to take the early lead, then saved a pair of break points to hold it 3-1 before slotting through the rest of the set. Djokovic used multiple drop shots with varying success, while Nadal attacked the net nine times, winning four of those points.

Nadal was snappy from the first ball and finished with a 12-6 win-against tally, while Djokovic was a minus-1 by that metric, hitting eight winners and nine errors.

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Second series

Djokovic fought back after a double breakdown, winning six of the last seven games in a thrilling 6-4 set.

Just like in the first set, Nadal started the second set with a crucial break of serve in a titanic opener. After Djokovic survived for over 13 minutes, Nadal took his seventh break point of the game to struggle for control of the game. Djokovic didn’t have a play point.

Nadal’s forehand was at his best, and Djokovic started pressing as he lost contact with the Spaniard. The Serbian found himself faced with a double break at 3-0 when Nadal caught a winner after chasing another bunt.

But Djokovic stepped up the aggression to make it 3-3, drawing errors from Nadal for the first time in the match as he began to dictate his own forehand. He won his fifth break point of a seven-point game to tie, then fought back a break point to hold 4-3 on four runs. These two crucial games after the 3-2 passage lasted almost 29 minutes.

As Nadal served at 4-5, Djokovic made a series of deep returns and broke for the third time in four return games to equalize after two hours and 18 minutes. The second set alone lasted an hour and 28 minutes.

The first two sets mirrored the start of their 2021 semi-final, when Nadal took a 6-3 opener before Djokovic responded with a 6-3 second. It set the stage for an all-time classic third set, which Djokovic won in a tie-break. The Serb’s four-set comeback was the first time since 2014 in this rivalry that the player losing the opening set has come back to win.

Third series

Three sets, three instant breaks for Nadal. And for the second set in a row, he claimed an early double break advantage behind blistering groundstrokes. This time it proved to be more than enough as he closed without a problem, ending the set just after midnight.

The 6-2 set gave the Spaniard a two-sets-to-one lead and dispelled any thoughts of lingering fatigue after his five-set triumph over Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday. After Nadal fended off a break point to hold it 3-1, he earned his second break – his sixth of the game – and never gave Djokovic a chance to close the game.

The Serb, after attacking with such consistency in his comeback in the second set, committed 16 unforced errors against seven set winners. Nadal, who had a positive ratio in all three sets, hit eight winners and six errors in the third.

Fourth series

Nadal secured the victory by winning the pair’s 19th tie-break, improving their record to 10-9 in the tie-break against the Serb.

The Spaniard gave up an early break in the set and trailed 3-5 as Djokovic got up to serve for the set. But after failing to create a break point in the set, the Spaniard made his breakthrough. It took nine minutes before Nadal converted his second break chance of the game to stay alive in the set.

Djokovic had saved 14 of 17 break points going into the game but faced 17 against Nadal alone, saving 10. The Spaniard saved eight of the 12 break points he faced in the quarter-finals.

With the momentum firmly on his side, Nadal took a 6-1 lead in the tie-break and eventually closed it on his fourth match point.

Djokovic briefly stemmed the tide early in the set to hold off a trademark Chatrier charge from Nadal, but couldn’t hold off his opponent’s final wave of brilliance. The Serb got the fourth off to a fast start, in stark contrast to the previous three sets. For the first time in the game, he held his first service game. Djokovic was able to pull Nadal around the baseline with regularity in the early stages of the set, and he capitalized on an early break point on his way to a 3-0 lead.

Even though Nadal stayed in the rallies with disconcerting squash shots, Djokovic kept his composure and pushed their lead to 5-2. But once Nadal got the break back, he commanded the end of the game to become a deserving winner.

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