Rafael Nadal won the French Open semifinal against Novak Djokovic

Rafael Nadal won the French Open semifinal

Rafael Nadal won the French Open semifinal 2022

Rafael Nadal reached his 15th French Open semi-final by winning a late-night classic against old rival Novak Djokovic in four sets in the early hours of Wednesday. After a four-hour-and-12-minute quarter-final on a raucous Court Philippe Chatrier, the 13-time Roland Garros champion won the pair’s 59th career meeting 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) in their 59th career encounter.

At 1:16 a.m. local time (2316 GMT Tuesday), Nadal defeated Djokovic for the eighth time in ten French Open matches, setting up a last-four encounter with third seed Alexander Zverev on Friday.

“I’m very emotional. For me it’s incredible to play here,” said Nadal. “Playing against him is always an amazing challenge … To win against Novak, there is only one way, to play your best from the first point until the last.”

Rafael Nadal won the French Open semifinal

Since his 2005 title-winning debut on the Paris clay, the 35-year-old has only lost three of his 113 encounters, behind Djokovic 30-29 in their career head-to-head. After winning this year’s Australian Open, which Djokovic missed due to his Covid vaccination status, the Spaniard, seeded fifth, is on track for a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam championship.

Djokovic came back from a two-break deficit in the second set to win in 88 minutes, but he wasted two set points when serving for the fourth to force a decider. While he waits till Wimbledon to add to his total of 21 Grand Slam titles, the world number one will regret those squandered opportunities.

“Congratulations to Rafa, he was better in the important moments,” said Djokovic.  “He showed why he was a great champion. Well done to him and his team, he deserves it.”

Match Climax

After being taken to five sets in the previous round by Felix Auger-Aliassime, Nadal was a little underdog heading into the match, and he even intimated that it might be his last participation in Paris owing to a recurrent foot issue. The night session’s colder, slower conditions were also predicted to favor Djokovic.  But the ‘King of Clay’ delighted the fans by smashing 57 winners in a signature display, avenging his semi-final loss to the same opponent a year ago.

Match Overview

The crowd quickly realized they would not be disappointed when Nadal broke in a tense 10-minute first game before saving two break points to take a 3-1 lead. Nadal took a double break in the fifth game after a powerful forehand winner, and he went on to serve out the opener with surprising ease, halting his opponent’s 22-set winning streak.

The second set’s first game was even longer than the first, but the outcome was the same: Nadal took his sixth breakpoint.  Djokovic fell behind by a double break after a series of unforced errors and a clever winner at the net from Nadal.

When Nadal netted a drop shot, Djokovic earned his first breakpoint, then won another grueling return game — in which Nadal was issued a warning for a time violation — on his sixth breakpoint to tie the set.  Both players had chances, but Nadal missed a long shot as Djokovic took his second set point in the 10th game. Nadal, on the other hand, came out battling and broke to love in the first game for the third time in a row. Another breakpoint eluded Djokovic before he surrendered his own serve to fall behind 4-1.

Thrilling end

With the clock ticking past midnight and shivering fans scrambling for blankets to keep warm, Nadal served out for a two-sets-to-one lead in game eight as Djokovic blazed wide on the second set point. Djokovic smashed the net in exasperation after missing a straightforward shot early in the fourth set, bringing thunderous booing from the fans. When a closely debated line call went in his favor, the top seed immediately refocused and broke serve for a 2-0 lead.

On his own serve, Djokovic had the opportunity to force a decision. Nadal, on the other hand, survived two set chances before converting a second break point with a forehand winner. Nadal got off to a fast start in the important tie-break, jumping out to a 6-1 lead. Three match points were saved by Djokovic, but Nadal crossed the finish line at the fourth attempt.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *