Rafael Nadal 2022 French Open

Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic in four thrilling sets in the French Open quarter-finals

The struggle for power at the top of men’s tennis continues. Rafael Nadal put in a massive effort to hold out Novak Djokovic at Court Philippe Chatrier on Tuesday night. The win means that the great Spaniard will continue to face Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals to be held on Friday.

Grand Slam Title #22 on the horizon for Nadal

The massive win also means that Nadal is now the favorite for his 14th French Open title, 22nd in total. After his impressive victory at the Australian Open in January, if Nadal goes on to win the Roland-Garros title again, he will open a two title gap over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the Total Grand Slam that he wins the race.

An epic match like this one in the quarter-finals although it shows how far Nadal and Djokovic are from the end. Despite the appearances of Carlos Alcaraz, who lost to Zverev in the quarter-finals today, and the likes of Daniil Medvedev on the hard courts, tennis is still at its peak when Djokovic and Nadal hit the court. It might be the most played men’s tennis match ever, but it’s still the most watched in the sport.

Nadal blows everyone away from the start

All the talk in the run-up to the match was about how the night conditions would suit the Serb. It was argued that the ball would not rise off the field high enough to fit Nadal, and that the thickness of the air suited Djokovic’s defence. Nadal himself announced his reluctance to play an overnight mud session. However, in practice, Nadal immediately put forward these theories. The Spaniard broke in the opening match, in a way that would become a feature in the match, into the Devil’s Match.

Nadal kept his foot on Djokovic’s throat throughout the opening match with clean tight control. His strikes on the ground, from both wings, sprayed the lines with dirt. The intention was clear with every throw of the racket. The top rotation on the front hand seemed to be unaffected by the conditions and the angles on the two nodes were very sharp. Djokovic was unable to enter the match despite his best efforts.

The tide turns in the second set

The opening match of the second set seemed pivotal at the time. It took six draws to be determined as (another) break for Rafael Nadal. When the Spaniard broke again to make the score 3-0, it looked like the Roland Garros crowd might be on an earlier night than expected. However, Djokovic is starting to show signs of increasing his mobility and accuracy.

This was then proven by an impressive 1-3 break and then an epic sixth match. Seven matches were played before Djokovic finally took his fifth stopping point in that match. The Serbian obviously accelerated as the set went on and by the time he finished the 88-minute set with a big break in the 10th inning, World No. 1 seemed ready to step forward and win the match.

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Nadal: The power of nature

However, as always, Nadal found the answers. An instant break in the first half of the set put the momentum back in his favour, and he seemed to crush Djokovic completely. 16 involuntary fouls in one set of a Serb is not something he is normally associated with and question marks are beginning to arise about the mental and physical ability required to win a match of this nature.

Nadal did this well in Australia against Daniil Medvedev. Winning an epic five-set match after such little match practice before the Australian Open is similar to what Djokovic was practicing here. Absent from the proceedings in Australia, Djokovic has not had this type of fight since the US Open in September, again against Medvedev. On that occasion, of course, Djokovic was unable to rise to the final victory. Would this have preyed on the mind of the 20-time Grand Slam champion?

Epic finale

It would be unfair to say that it was Djokovic’s mentality that led to the great champion’s decline. Rafael Nadal raised him to an unbeatable 2-5 in the break. Djokovic’s two set points were not stifled, but were decimated by great Spanish tennis and determination.

The fourth-set tiebreak went straight in Nadal’s direction and he was unlikely to relinquish that control. Philippe Chatrier is still Nadal’s home. The champ 13 times was very good and once again showed that he is a clay master. By day and despite the theories, at night too.

The financial toll of this match is likely to be huge for the 35-year-old Nadal. Of course, he now has two days off so that works in his favour. It’s hard to imagine him losing his grip on the title from here, but that’s why we love tennis. Nothing is decided until points are won. However, it is Nadal’s advantage in the Grand Slam.

Feature image via Getty Images.

2022-05-31 23:15:50

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