Rafa Nadal wins a marathon with Novak Djokovic in the RG quarters, takes revenge for last year

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In a new epic duel between two of the greatest players in the history of tennis, Rafael Nadal won in four sets with Novak Djokovic, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6, qualifying for the semifinals of the Roland Garros. The match lasted more than four hours, beyond 1:00 AM in Paris.

Djokovic had two set pieces in the fourth set, before Rafa came back and prevailed at 4 in the tiebreak.

Nadal will meet Alexander Zverev in the semifinals, who won in four sets an extraordinary match with the revelation of Carlos Alcaraz.

Novak Djokovic will lose 1st place on June 13; Medvedev (or Zverev, if he wins the tournament) will replace him at the top of the ATP rankings.

Rafa’s connection to Chatrier

We look at Rafa and Nole, and we love them so much because they come from somewhere else – they’re not from here. And with all their physicality, they have become more immaterial than we are.

How will Rafa’s body withstand the demands of his heart? And how much more can he ask for?

How will Djoko respond to adversity? And how much more can adversity turn into desire?

These were the questions of the beginning of the match, a headliner who came early, in the quarterfinals.

We received the answers one by one, but we can start with the end: in most of the clashes between them, at least in the Slams, the one who was willing to embrace more passionately with suffering won. Today, this man was Rafael Nadal. With his worldly torments, but with his superhuman aura, Rafa was healed again by this land, by the energy of his people.


On a Chatrier in which he stood on the stairs and at the edge of the entrance gates, things started abruptly.

The first game lasted 10 minutes: break for Rafa, on the third occasion. The Spaniard entered the match better, more aggressively. He did not want to stay in long shifts with Nole, he changed direction at the first opportunity. At 2-0 for him, the stands chanted loudly Ra-fa !, Ra-fa!

But Novak answered them, with his first game, then with two chances to break for 2-2: he missed the first one and the second one was saved by Nadal excellently. When he made the second break, for 4-1, the good mood settled over the huge Chatrier. Which, with a soul in each chair, seemed smaller, intimate. A huge field of emotions, to which each contributed his own. At 5-1 for the Spaniard, the stands imitated the oils of the bullfight; at 5-2, they tried the first Mexican waves. But Nole is still dull, lacking the intensity that inhabits him, usually on occasions like this.

Set 1 lost to 2. The second one started on duty, a very long new game, in which he managed to save the first six break points, not the seventh.

So far, the Serb has had 7 unforced mistakes with his lapel. Rafa – only one. But it wasn’t so much about Djoko’s mistakes as it was about Nadal’s fantastic achievements. He flew through the next service range, giving clear signs that he was in the area, that he could send a chin candy near the line. Fresh. Rejuvenated.

At 3-0 for him, after the second break – taken this one in a categorical way, the fanfare from the top of the tribune accompanied him in his rhythms from home. But it wasn’t a burning fire for Nadal, who came here to put things in order, to remind us – with a special ferocity – that this tour is his.

Only here did Nole put his foot in the door. He made the first break unannounced, entered the table and, after a few nice points, showed us his first smile: maybe he felt the cold air of the Parisian evening? Maybe he remembered that last year, when he defeated Nadal in the semifinals here, he knew how to keep him on his side. He played excellently with crosshand forehand: sometimes high, long, sometimes short and flatter, on shorter balls.

In any case, after that smile, Nole came to the game.

He won his job by making four winning balls, drew 2-3 and got two more break points: Rafa saved them, the game went into overtime, then into overtime. Where, in a tension fueled by all of us, Djoko made a break – on the fifth occasion.

Here, from 3-0 to 3-3, during which time he reached 11 unforced errors with the forehand, Rafa seemed to be taken out (or pushed) out of the tunnel. He looked for another chance to break in the next game, he tried to dominate again with the right, but the Serb took his fourth game in a row. And he gave us his first one there roar lion: you hear it in your stomach. And it makes you want to make yourself smaller – because you’re not made of the same material as Nadal.

Rafa tried to get bigger, occupied the field again, kept his service for 4-4, but could not send the set in overtime. When he closed it (6-4), Nole pointed his index finger at his temple.


After two hours and 20 minutes, during the break between sets, Rafa, like many people in the stands, took a break from the toilet or locker room. Nole stretched, did his stretching routine, but started the set stiffer, pushed (again) back by an intense (again) Nadal.

The Spaniard started again with a break (as in the previous two sets), confirmed it immediately for 2-0, and found the bullfight, the waves and the oleeee where he left them last time. How did he suddenly recover, what is this renewable source of desire?

Djoko had a rebreak ball for 2-2, he couldn’t transform it, then he suffered the consequences, just like in the first set: Nadal made it 4-1. And from there 6-2, to complete the image of the first set. It was completed by Nole, who died unexpectedly, made an atypical mistake a long time ago – and sent a few balls (very) far out.

His disappearance led to a decrease in the level of the match, so Nole felt obliged to do more, better.

He started set 4 while keeping his job, then drew his first more shrill whistles after taking revenge on the net. It was one of those moments when he was able to feed himself, as he always does.

He made the break for 2-0 and was shown to us again: when he went 3-0, with his 18th winning ball on the forehand, many looked at the clock – already 20 minutes after midnight.

In the high tribunes of Chatrier, more and more cold, many people with blankets, serious jackets and twisted figures of emotion. On the field, the service went up to 4-2 for Nole, at which point the stands suddenly rose to chant Ra-fa, Ra-fa! Djokovic responded with a tense hold and a clenched fist.

The same chants were heard, ten times louder and for good seconds, when Nole served for the fourth set. And what games I received! Almost no mistakes, a lot of great points, two set balls saved by Rafa, a break chance canceled by Nole, who could do nothing in the second: 5-4 with the service, and the stands erupted.

There were two games in which Djoko could no longer find the opponent’s lapel. He kept on Rafa’s forehand, and the Spaniard did not forgive anything on this side.

In a beautiful atmosphere, but very oppressive for him, the Serb managed – he knows how – to keep his next range of work, before Rafa took us on a tiebreak. And it was a tiebreak that he controlled with the ferocity and freshness of the first set, an energy that he knew how to receive from his generous and numerous fans.

He thanked them at the end and gave them a meeting in two days.

The Rafa legend continues.

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