Rafael Nadal wins epic Four-set clash with Djokovic in quater final
Rafael Nadal has won the 59th installment of his legendary rivalry against Novak Djokovic, advancing to the Roland Garros semi-finals with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) victory in a match that began Tuesday night and finished after 1 a.m Wednesday morning in Paris.
The Spaniard led by a set and a double break before Djokovic stormed back to level, but Nadal reasserted himself with a dominant third set. It was the World No. 1 who started strongest in the fourth, but Nadal saved two set points to deny his attempt to serve out the set and force a decider. Three days ahead of his 36th birthday, Nadal powered to victory in a one-sided tie-break.
Nadal gains a measure of revenge after his semi-final loss one year ago at Roland Garros — the most recent meeting between the pair. By ending Djokovic's title defence, Nadal moves within two victories of a record-extending 14th Roland Garros title and 22nd major crown. Had Djokovic advanced, he would have had a golden opportunity to tie Nadal by winning his 21st Grand Slam title.
Nadal is now guaranteed to remain the leader of the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin after Paris, priming himself for a shot at finishing year-end World No. 1. The victory also lifts the left-hander ahead of Stefanos Tsitsipas to No. 4 in the pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
Nadal improved to 29-30 in this ATP Head2Head series by breaking serve seven times on 17 chances, including twice in each of the first three sets. He saved eight of the 12 break points he faced.
The Spaniard has now won consecutive matches of four-plus hours. After defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday after four hours and 20 minutes, he moved past Djokovic in four hours and 11 minutes.
Nadal entered the tournament under a cloud of doubt due to his chronic foot injury and played just two clay events prior to Roland Garros after a six-week layoff due to a rib fracture. But he looked as fit as ever as he improved to 15-1 in the Roland Garros quarter-finals.
After two days of rest, Nadal will face Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals after the third-seeded German knocked off Carlos Alcaraz earlier on Tuesday.
Djokovic entered the quarter-final on a nine match win streak, winning 22 straight sets dating back to his ATP Masters 1000 triumph in Rome. He was also on an 11-match win streak at Roland Garros, matching his longest run in Paris (2016-17).
While Nadal and Djokovic are familiar foes — especially at Roland Garros, where Nadal now holds an 8-2 head-to-head edge — their quarter-final is also a match of historic firsts: It is the first time in the Open era that a men's match has featured two men with at least 20 Grand Slam wins, 1,000 match wins or 300 Grand Slam match wins.
Nadal and Djokovic both put on a show in the opening set of their Roland Garros quarter-final, but Nadal struck the first heavy blows to win it, 6-2. While the scoreline was one-sided, the majority of the rallies were enthralling back-and-forth affairs with both men battling for supremacy in a high-octane chess match from the baseline.
Djokovic had saved 14 of 17 break points entering the match, but faced 17 against Nadal alone, saving 10. The Spaniard saved eight of the 12 break points he faced in the quarter-final.