Tennis legend Rafael Nadal defeated longtime rival and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros early Wednesday morning to advance to the semifinals of the French Open.
The 59th installment of the storied rivalry between two all-time tennis greats was another thriller, with Rafael Nadal winning 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4). The quarterfinal match ended after 1 a.m. local time in Paris and lasted more than four hours. The 35-year-old Spaniard is seeking a record-extending 14th French Open title and also a record-extending 22nd major title. Nadal will face Alex Zverev of Germany in the semifinals. Zverev, the world No. 3, advanced after besting 19-year-old Spaniard and world No. 6 Carlos Alcaraz in four sets on Tuesday.
In their head-to-head matches, more than any other two men in the sport’s professional era, Nadal has beaten Novak Djokovic 29 times, while Djokovic has won 30. During his long illustrious career, Nadal has played 113 matches at Roland Garros and won 110 of them. Two of these three defeats were at the hands of Djokovic.
However, could this year’s French Open be the last for Rafael Nadal? The 13-time Roland Garros champion is dealing with a nagging foot injury and isn’t sure about his future. After his five-set win against Felix Auger-Aliassime in the round of 16 on Sunday, he said, “Two and a half weeks ago, even if I had positive hopes after Rome, I didn’t even know if I would be able to be here. So I’m just enjoying the fact that I am here for one more year. And being honest, every match that I play here, I don’t know if it is going to be my last match in Roland Garros in my tennis career.”
After his four-set win against Djokovic, Nadal told reporters: “It’s one of the most beautiful nights in my career. I am trying to play this tournament with the best conditions possible. The crowd have been amazing since the beginning of the tournament. I don’t know [why]. They probably know that I’m not going to be here many more times.” Nadal was asked if there is an additional emotional burden on him knowing that any one match could be his last.
I don’t know what will happen to me in the future. I think, like I have said earlier, I will play this tournament because he is doing the things necessary to play the game well. I have no idea what will happen after the tournament.
I have what I have there in the foot, so we are not able to find an improvement or a small solution there on that. I have difficulty thinking of a substantial development in that area.
Nadal said he’s just enjoying every day at Roland Garros without thinking much about what might happen in the future. He will keep fighting to find a solution, and after the match, Djokovic congratulated him by saying that he “showed why he’s a great champion.”
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal said, “I gave my best” but “I know I could have played better.” “I’m proud of fighting and staying till the last shot,” he added, “As I said, you know, I lost to a better player today. … over four hours’ battle, and I have to accept this defeat.”