Rafael Nadal will face Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals of the French Open after defeating world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
Nadal, who has won Roland Garros an unprecedented 13 times, blew up the gates to blow Djokovic off in the first set before producing many stellar shots to reach the final four. The Spaniard will face German Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals as he narrows the head-to-head deficit with Djokovic to just one at 30-29.
This long-awaited match started as everyone had hoped, with two men playing an impressive shot after an impressive shot. Nadal took the first match of the match and set the tone for a stellar performance with a sensational back on the baseline.
The Spaniard made tennis look like an art genre through most of the first set, and won game six to love. Nadal was relentless and unrestricted, along with the Serb to win a 25-shot rally.
Ultimately, a powerful Nadal service secured the opening set 6-2. The bubbly and passionate Paris crowd was self-policing everywhere, but they certainly did not pretend to hide their joy at the result of the first set.
Even with the incredible display of the 21-time Grand Slam winner, it never felt as if Djokovic was done even though that feeling was tested early in the second set. Seven-time major champion and Eurosport commentator John McEnroe described Nadal’s tennis as “A +” as the Spaniard passed his Serbian test with brilliant.
He raced in a 3-0 lead in the middle of a stellar game, but Djokovic found a way to counter. World No. 1 scored a breaking point that was accidentally taken when Nadal floated a shotgun into the net – did the tide start to turn?
Yes, it was. Djokovic secured his second consecutive game in style, allowing a smile to creep into his face. The subject of much of the crowd’s anger, he was in the belt when he raced into a 15-40 serve when he tried to break Nadal in game six of the second set.
Nadal sensationally fought his way to a duo and the duo exchanged opportunities to take the game but no one was able to cross the line despite their sensational rallies. Finally, after about 18 minutes, Djokovic equalized in the set and celebrated with an icy cold fist pump.
The next game was another slogan with the same result when the Serb took the lead 4-3, celebrating this time with a passionate roar. The next game went to a double again, only for Nadal to come out on top – but Djokovic bit back to take a 5-4 lead.
The Serb scored a fixture but Nadal held on admirably, only for the inevitable to happen. Djokovic took the second set 6-4 and the third chapter of this classic episode continued.
Nadal broke Djokovic in the opening game of the third set, and the duo each held service as they fought as gladiators through each game. Suddenly, a timeless double foul condemned Djokovic to another break and put Nadal in a commanding 4-1 lead and the Spaniard stormed to a 6-4 victory in the third.
Djokovic then turned the heat on to open the fourth set, moving 3-0 up with ease that no one expected during this titanic battle. Nadal tried to resist and even demanded a game to love, but the World No. 1 began to find a rhythm on the worn-out clay as he blew to a 5-2 lead.
Nadal brought it back to 5-3 and scored a breaking point, but Djokovic wonderfully held his nerve. It was short-lived however, with World No. 5 breaking its rival before taking it back to five games per piece.
Djokovic quickly retaliated and kept service, prompting Nadal to do the same and enforce equality on a regular basis. The waiting crowd simply held their breath – and they were not disappointed, as their favorite showed his courage.
Nadal hit a series of stunning handshakes to race into a 4-0 lead, with Djokovic showing signs of frustration. The Serb fought on, but Nadal was not stopped as he stormed to a 7-4 unbeaten win to ensure a safe passage to the semi-finals.