div id = ””> Sprinting, sliding and stretching, anticipating each other’s movements for four sets and over four hours, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal produced a masterpiece in the semi-finals of Roland Garros.
Djokovic, in this case, is one of only two men in tennis history who knows what it takes to beat Nadal at Roland Garros. And now Djokovic has done it twice – this time ending Nadal’s candidacy for a 14th championship there and a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in aggregate coming back to win their 58th career 3-6 clash, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 Friday night.“Just one of those nights and games that you will remember forever,” said frontrunner Djokovic, who was down 2-0 in the final set before winning the final half-dozen to reach his sixth clay final . big tournament.
“Certainly the best match I played at Roland Garros, for me, and [one of the] the three best games I have played in my entire career – considering the quality of tennis, playing my biggest rival in the field where he has been so successful and has been the dominant force for the past 15 years and plus, ”Djokovic said,“ and the atmosphere, which was completely electric. “
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It was Nadal’s third loss in 108 appearances in a tournament he has won in each of the past four years, including beating Djokovic in the 2020 final.
Nadal’s first loss at Roland Garros came against Robin Soderling in 2009; the next against Djokovic in 2015.
“Every time you step on the pitch with him,” Djokovic said, “you know you kind of have to climb Mount Everest to win against this guy here. “
And to think: there wasn’t even a trophy at stake in this one. This will happen on Sunday, when Djokovic, a 34-year-old Serb, takes on Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 22-year-old Greek.
Fifth-seeded Tsitsipas edged sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 earlier on Friday to reach his first Grand Slam final. This is Djokovic’s 29th as he seeks a second title at Roland Garros and a 19th major championship overall to move closer to one of the men’s Slam brands shared by Nadal and Roger Federer.
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Tsitsipas had already lost a two-set lead in his semi-final on Friday when he double faulted to drag love-40 in the opener of the fifth. But Tsitsipas armed himself to win five straight points, then broke to come back 3-1.
“I am someone who fights. I was not yet ready to give up. I think I did a few good things that worked in my favor, ”said Tsitsipas, who started the day 0-3 in the major semi-final.
“It was a breath of fresh air, this first game,” he said. “I felt revitalized. “
His semi-final offered a measure of drama. But in truth, Tsitsipas-Zverev was just an opening act in front of the headliners.
Nadal and Djokovic really pissed off the noisy crowd at Philippe Chatrier court.
Halfway through the third set, Djokovic won a 23-stroke point with a winning forehand and spun his arms half a dozen times, earning a standing ovation and chants of “No-vak!” No-vak! At the next point, Nadal produced a winning forehand and shouted, eliciting chants of “Ra-fa!” Ra-fa! And a wave in the stands.
Nadal acknowledged that fatigue may have been a factor in his poor play in the tiebreaker, including a double fault and a missed volley.
“Mistakes can happen,” said the 35-year-old Spaniard. “But if you want to win, you can’t make these mistakes. “
This set alone lasted 1 hour 33 minutes and a national 11 p.m. curfew in place due to COVID-19 was approaching. Djokovic’s previous game had been delayed by more than 20 minutes as the audience – limited to 5,000 people with coronavirus restrictions – were evacuated from the stadium, but an announcement was made on Friday to let everyone know that the government agreed to let them stay until the end of the match.
Earlier songs in French of “We won’t leave!” Were replaced by choirs of the national anthem and cheers of thanks for President Emmanuel Macron.
Nadal later noted that playing in the cooler night air meant the balls bounced lower, lessening the effect of the big lift from his left forehand.
“It’s more favorable for him, the conditions,” Nadal said. “By the way, it doesn’t matter. It’s tennis. The player who gets used to the conditions the best is the player who deserves to win. So, without a doubt, he deserved to win. “
The intensity was palpable from the start of the night and Nadal took a 5-0 lead, recalling last year’s final, which he won 6-0, 6-2, 7-5. It was only the fourth shutout lost by Djokovic in 341 career Grand Slam appearances so far – and the first in a major final.
There wouldn’t be another Friday, as Djokovic made two key tactical adjustments – stepping back much further than usual to return the serve and deciding to focus on the serve towards Nadal’s backhand – and quickly made it clear. indicated that it would be a classic between two of the greatest of all time. to what they do.
They defended themselves in a way rarely seen. Found the right mix of power and feel. Cited some seemingly impossible winners that no one else would try, let alone successfully employ. Income as good as anyone, combining to generate 38 break points.
The most common match of all time
No professional-era man, dating back to 1968, has faced as much as this duo (Djokovic now leads 30-28). They know each other very well, as well as their respective strengths, weaknesses, and patterns.
They came and went -om game to game, point to point, shot to shot. Through exchanges that lasted 10 moves, 20 moves, more, they created wonderful points, too many to count – or recount.
They forced themselves to offer the goods over and over again, in a version of “Can you beat this?” And the answer, time and time again, was “Yes!” “
Neither give up nor give in.
Djokovic ignored his first hole. He saved a set point as he led 6-5 in the third. Nadal recovered from the abandoned tiebreaker to steal a break early in the fourth.
But Djokovic came back to 2 and was on his way.
“Something clicked,” Djokovic said.