Rafael Nadal, under the threat of foot pain, was exceptional in knocking out world No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the French Open quarter-finals 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7- 6 (7/4), on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. The Spaniard (5th) continues his quest for a 14th title on Parisian clay.
The 59th episode held in suspense until past one o’clock in the morning: after yet another memorable duel, Rafael Nadal defied logic against Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals of Roland-Garros on Tuesday evening, a tournament including Europe 1 is the official radio. For a place in the final, he will face world number 3 Alexander Zverev, who fell for the Spanish phenomenon Carlos Alcaraz. Even with a less than ideal preparation, Nadal, like at home on Parisian clay where he triumphed 13 times, had promised to “try with all his might”.
Rafael Nadal clung to his profession of faith late into the night from Tuesday to Wednesday to bite the dust at world number 1 and defending champion 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7 /4) after 4h12 of combat. Not without having discarded two fifth set balls. “It’s an unforgettable night. I doubted that I would be able to play at the level I needed to really have a chance”, admits “Rafa”, himself “surprised” by his level of play found as by magic.
Nothing is impossible for Rafael Nadal
A fatigue fracture to a rib two months before Roland-Garros? A season on ocher launched later than ever at the beginning of May? A new blow ten days before the Parisian Grand Slam when his left foot, eaten away since he was 18 by a “chronic and incurable” disease (necrosis of the scaphoid bone, editor’s note), betrayed him a once again ? A fight of almost four and a half hours in five rounds 48 hours before attacking Djokovic? Nothing, ever, is impossible for the Mallorcan champion with a thousand injuries and a thousand and one rebirths, who will celebrate his 36th birthday on Friday.
“It’s not the first time that he manages to come back to 100% physically just a few days after suffering pain and barely managing to leave the court on his feet”, commented the Serb, “not surprised”. “I don’t know what can happen after here”, however loose Nadal about his foot. “If we are not able to find a solution, it will become super difficult”. How to take the measure of this 59th face-to-face between the two giants who have maintained for sixteen years the rivalry that has become the most prolific in men’s tennis?
The Spaniard victorious in the decisive game of the fourth set
This is the first match between two players at the head of a collection of at least 20 Grand Slam trophies (21 for Nadal, 20 for Djokovic). The first also between two players who have accumulated over their exceptional careers more than 1000 victories on the circuit and more than 300 in Grand Slam. For nearly an hour and a half, Nadal, the whole stadium or almost won over to his cause, went it alone: until leading 6-2, 3-0 double break, he recited his tennis like in a dream. A 6-1 inflicted by Djokovic later, the two players were tied one set everywhere.
With his characteristic fierce determination, the Spaniard returned to the fight as if nothing had happened. After three hours of play, it was he who took the lead, two sets to one. But even after midnight, even after three hours of play, even back to the wall, “Nole” did not give up. At 5 games to 3, he got two fifth inning balls. In vain. Because no one has a head as hard as the Mallorcan left-hander, finally victorious in the decisive game. Djokovic will not join Nadal in the number of Grand Slam crowns at the end of this 2022 edition of Roland-Garros. “Rafa” even has an opportunity to escape in the lead.
Alcaraz’s dream vanished against Zverev
Earlier, it was Alcaraz’s dream of winning a first major title just two months after celebrating his 19th birthday that vanished. Presented as a serious contender for the trophy after his hair-raising spring – an ambition assumed by the young Spaniard, already world No.6 at 19 – he was stopped by Zverev, winner 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7 -6 (9/7), after failing to convert a fifth set ball in the tie-break (at 6-5). From Barcelona to Paris, via Madrid, “Carlitos” remained on a series of 14 matches won consecutively.
But Zverev, powerless in early May in the final in the Spanish capital (6-3, 6-1) against the fury of Alcaraz, took his revenge at Porte d’Auteuil. “I told him he was going to win this tournament not once, but many times. I hope I can win it before he starts beating us all and we have no chance.” , joked the 25-year-old German, still in search of a first Grand Slam title.
In the women’s draw, the American Coco Gauff, promised since adolescence to a great future, was invited for the first time in the semi-finals of a major tournament, at 18, at the expense of her compatriot Sloane Stephens (64th ) 7-5, 6-2. Like the Italian Martina Trevisan, 59th in the world at 28 years old.