PARIS (AP) — Rafael Nadal insists he cannot know for sure if a match will be his last at Roland Garros, the bastion he loves and where he is adored.
For now, if he continues to win and play as he did on Tuesday, in another memorable duel against Novak Djokovic, the Spanish star will continue to play games here.
With a mixture of brilliant shots and his usual superhuman stamina, Nadal beat Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) on Tuesday to move into the French Open semifinals.
“You can only win against Novak in one way, playing hard from the first point to the last,” Nadal said. “This has been one of those magical nights for me.”
It was for anyone lucky enough to be in the stands or to watch on television.
With his victory, the Spaniard moved another step closer to obtaining what would be his 14th championship in this Grand Slam tournament on clay courts. With this, he would also extend his record, with his 22nd title in the big events.
The match began a little after 9 p.m. Tuesday and ended more than four hours later. That is, it started in May and ended after 1 in the morning of the first day of June.
And not a single game, point, hit, or even a step on the court was given with reluctance by any of the formidable opponents who gave everything and ruled nothing.
The key indicated that this was a quarterfinal duel. But it felt like a final, due to the quality of the game, the level of effort, the expectation generated, and the atmosphere that surrounded everything.
Only one thing was missing: There was no trophy to give to the winner.
“Playing against him is always an amazing challenge,” Nadal said. “We have many stories together. Today’s was another.”
Nadal prevented Djokovic (1st seed) from stringing together titles in Paris. He further ensured that the Serb stayed behind him on the list of all-time major winners, with 20.
The Mallorcan improved to a 110-3 record in his career at Roland Garros. Two of those losses came to Djokovic, including one in the semifinals last year.
This duel was the 59th between both legends. No other pair of rivals have collided more often in the open era.
Nadal reduced Djokovic’s advantage in the duels between the two to 30-29.
Showing no trace of the chronic pain he has said he suffers from in his left foot, Nadal also did not seem to suffer from the fatigue of his duel against Felix Ager-Aliassime on Sunday in the fourth round.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Djokovic said. “It is not the first time that he can recover in a few days, after being injured and barely able to walk, to reach 100% physically.”
On Friday, Nadal will turn 36 and will face third-seeded Alexander Zverev in the semifinals. He will thus seek to avenge the elimination of his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz.
Many people predicted that Alcaraz, the 19-year-old rising star, would emerge as the French Open champion. Someday it might be, but no
Zverev ended Alcaraz’s 14-match winning streak by beating him 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 76 (7) on Tuesday and reached the Roland Garros semifinals for the second straight year.
“I told him on the net ‘you are going to win the tournament many times, not just once,'” said Germany’s Zverev, a 2020 US Open semifinalist and gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics last year. “Hopefully I can win him before he starts … beating us.”
In women’s tournament action, 18-year-old American Coco Gauff will take on 28-year-old Italian Martina Trevisan who reached her first Grand Slam semifinal.
18th-seeded Gauff edged 2017 US Open champion and 2018 French Open finalist Sloane Stephens 7-5, 6-2, while 59th-seeded Trevisan eliminated US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-3.
Alcaraz reached the quarterfinals with a season-high four titles and a 32-4 record (20-1 on clay). This includes his victory over the 25-year-old Zverev in the Madrid Open final on May 8 — which followed Alcaraz’s triumph over Nadal and Djokovic at the same venue, becoming the first teenager to overcome to the two greats in the same clay tournament.
At Roland Garros, sixth seed Alcaraz was bidding to become the youngest semi-finalist since Nadal reached the semi-final at the age of 19 in 2005.
But Zverev managed to fix a flaw in his résumé: the German entered the night with an 0-11 record in Grand Slam matches against opponents in the ATP Top 10.