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Rafael Nadal advances to French Open semifinals after defeating Novak Djokovic
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his quarterfinal match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic in four sets at the French Open tennis tournament in the Roland Garros stadium in Paris on June 1.
(CNN)Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal beat longtime rival and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros early Wednesday to advance to the semifinals at the French Open.
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The 59th installment of the storied rivalry between the two all-time tennis greats was another thriller, with Nadal winning 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4).
The quarterfinal match, which ended after 1 a.m. local time in Paris, lasted more than four hours and was one of the most anticipated of the tournament.
The 35-year-old Spaniard is seeking a record-extending 14th French Open title and also a record-extending 22nd major title.
Nadal will face Alex Zverev of Germany in the semifinals. Zverev, the world No. 3, advanced after besting 19-year-old Spaniard and world No. 6 Carlos Alcaraz in four sets on Tuesday.
In their head-to-head matches, more than any other two men in the sport's professional era, Nadal has beaten Djokovic 29 times, while Djokovic has won 30.
And during Nadal's long illustrious career, he has played 113 matches at Roland Garros and won 110 of them. Djokovic is responsible for two of these three defeats in Paris.
But could this year's French Open be Nadal's last? It sounds like the 13-time Roland Garros champion, who is dealing with a nagging foot injury, isn't sure.
On Sunday, following his five-set win against Felix Auger-Aliassime in the round of 16, Nadal said, "Two and a half weeks ago, even if I had (positive hopes) after Rome, I didn't even know if I would be able to be here. So I'm just enjoying the fact that I am here for one more year. And being honest, every match that I play here, I don't know if it is going to be my last match in Roland Garros in my tennis career."
Following his four-set win against Djokovic, he told reporters it was "one of these unforgettable nights" and he was "putting everything" into trying "to play this tournament with the best conditions possible."
"The crowd have been amazing since the beginning of the tournament," Nadal said. "I don't know. I think probably they know that I'm not going to be here (many) more times."
Nadal was asked if there is an additional emotional burden on him knowing that any one match could be his last.
"I don't know what can happen. I think, as I said before, I'm going to be playing this tournament because we are doing the things to be ready to play this tournament, but I don't know what's going to happen after here," he said.
"I have what I have there in the foot, so if we are not able to find an improvement or a small solution on that, then it's becoming super difficult for me."
Nadal said he's just enjoying every day at Roland Garros "without thinking much about what can happen in the future" and will "keep fighting to find a solution."
After the match, Djokovic congratulated Nadal saying he "showed why he's a great champion. You know, staying there mentally tough and finishing the match the way he did."
The world No. 1 said, "I gave my best" but "I know I could have played better."
"I'm proud of fighting and staying till the last shot. As I said, you know, I lost to a better player today ... over four hours' battle, and I have to accept this defeat."
Rafael Nadal’s dominance on clay continues with epic win over Novak Djokovic
As the two greatest rivals in men’s tennis convened at the French Open once more, plenty of factors pointed in favour of Novak Djokovic. While both he and Rafael Nadal had arrived in the clay court season full of uncertainty, only Djokovic had taken notable steps forward since. Nadal, meanwhile, still searched for his best form after his fractured rib. His preparation was complicated with a flareup of his chronic foot injury. His form in Paris was, so far, subpar.
But this is Rafael Nadal. At Roland Garros. He is the man who has won 110 times in his home with just three losses, who has shown over the course of his 17 years there that form and other frivolous trivia have little relevance in the face of total, unprecedented dominance. In a match that began in May and ended in June, Nadal blew Djokovic away in the opening stages, then absorbed multiple strong fightbacks and immense pressure before rising to win 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) after four hours and 11 minutes at 1:15am local time.
“It was a very tough match,” said Nadal. “Novak is one of the best players in history without a doubt. Always to play against him is an amazing challenge. All the history that we have together, today was another one.”
In the 59th meeting of the historic rivalry that never ends, Nadal moves to 29-30 against Djokovic in their head-to-head. He will face Alexander Zverev in the semi-final, who played the best grand slam match of his career as he edged past an often erratic Carlos Alcaraz, snuffing out the surrounding hype as he won 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7).
Nadal arrived on his court and set the tone from the beginning, forcing his way inside the baseline and looking to unload on his forehand down the line, the historic barometer of his confidence. During the numerous tight early games, Nadal broke Djokovic’s serve in the opening game after several deuces. As a sublime Nadal marched through the opening set, Djokovic struggled. His backhand sprayed unusual unforced errors, returns landed short, he struggled to keep up and Nadal established a 6-2, 3-0 lead with a double break.
It was only a matter of time before Djokovic asserted himself, and it was at this moment that he did. He scythed Nadal’s serve down with his return and slowly moved on top of the baseline as it was he who dictated the exchanges, crushing the ball and rushing the Nadal forehand. He won six of the next seven games to level the match, but they were earned through a series of interminable, brutal deuce games over an 88-minute set.
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