13-time champion Rafael Nadal outlasted defending champion Novak Djokovic in the French Open 2022 quarter-final in another episode of the epic battles between the two greatest players of all time on Tuesday, May 31.
Nadal dismissed all doubts over his fitness with an incredible display of tennis against Djokovic, who had not dropped a set at this year’s clay-court Grand Slam until he met his arch-rival. In a see-saw battle that started in May and finished in June (local time), Nadal defeated Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in 4 hours and 12 minutes.
With the victory that avenged his crushing loss from the 2021 semi-final, Nadal set up a semi-final battle with World No. 3 Alexander Zverev, who knocked out teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz earlier in the day.
NO 22 FOR NADAL?
Nadal extended his incredible record at Roland Garros to 110-3 after the quarter-final epic on Tuesday. Two of those defeats came against Novak Djokovic, including the one at last year’s semi-final.
With the win, Nadal looks set to win his 22nd Grand Slam title and extended the lead over Djokovic and Roger Federer by 2 Majors. The Spaniard also stopped Djokovic’s bid to win a back-to-back Roland Garros title and kept him at 20.
It’s incredible how Nadal keeps coming back to Roland Garros and keeps producing magical display of tennis on the red dirt. A couple of months ago, there were doubts over whether Nadal would play at the French Open as he had a six-week layoff due to a rib injury. When he came back, he was not at his best as he was troubled by a chronic foot injury that flared up in Madrid and then in Rome.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 31, 2022
‘IT WAS SPECIAL’
However, there were no signs of injury concerns as Nadal, who will turn 36 on Friday, came up with an incredible level of tennis against the World No. 1 tennis player. The level which he displayed in the last 30 minutes of the 4th set to bounce back from an early break and win the tie-breaker took fans down memory lane.
“It was really special. It was a very tough match, Novak is one of the best players in history, and all the history we have. There is only one way to beat Novak and that is to play at your best,” Nadal said during an on-court interview after his victory.
Nadal has a fine opportunity to make it 2 in 2 this year as the Spaniard had won the Australian Open earlier this year.
Nadal also dismissed the outside noise surrounding his reluctance to play night matches at the Philippe Chatrier by outclassing the best in the business in a match that started post 8:30 pm local time.
Nadal raced to a 6-2 win in the opening set, maintaining a very high win percentage on his serves as he deflated Djokovic with the early burst. He was lead 3-0 in the second set and it looked like he would bury the ghosts of 2021 but the Serb, known to possess an infinite repository of grit, bounced back and took the second set 6-4.
Just when the momentum swung in Djokovic’s favour, it was Nadal’s turn to fight back and take the 3rd set 6-4.
However, Nadal found himself in a tricky spot when he was broken early in the 4th set. Nonetheless, the Spaniard didn’t let Djokovic run away with it and produced an incredible level of tennis that was too good for even the Serb.