Rafael Nadal advanced to the quarterfinals of the French Open by defeating longtime adversary and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros early Wednesday.
Nadal prevailed 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 in the 59th instalment of the historic rivalry between the two all-time tennis greats (4).
The quarterfinal encounter, which lasted more than four hours and ended after 1 a.m. local time in Paris, was one of the most anticipated of the competition.
The 35-year-old Spaniard is aiming for a record-tying 14th French Open victory as well as a record-tying 22nd major trophy.
In the semifinals, Nadal will face Germany’s Alex Zverev. Zverev, the world No. 3, advanced after defeating Carlos Alcaraz, a 19-year-old Spaniard who is ranked No. 6 in the world, in four sets on Tuesday.
Nadal has beaten Djokovic 29 times in their head-to-head meetings, more than any other two men in the sport’s professional era. Djokovic has won 30.
And over Nadal’s remarkable career, he has won 110 of the 113 matches he has played in Roland Garros. Two of these three losses in Paris were caused by Djokovic.
But is it possible that this year’s French Open will be Nadal’s last? The 13-time Roland Garros champion, who is suffering with a chronic foot issue, appears to be undecided.
Following his five-set victory over Felix Auger-Aliassime in the round of 16, Nadal stated on Sunday, “I didn’t know whether I’d be able to be here two and a half weeks ago, even if I had (good hopes) after Rome. So I’m just taking advantage of the fact that I’ll be here for another year. And, to be honest, I don’t know if each match I play here will be my last in Roland Garros during my tennis career.”
He told reporters after his four-set triumph over Djokovic that it was “one of those unforgettable evenings” and that he was “putting everything” into “playing this tournament in the greatest conditions possible.”
“Since the beginning of the tournament, the crowd has been incredible,” Nadal said. “I’m not sure. I believe they are aware that I will not be returning (many) times.”
When asked if he feels any extra emotional pressure knowing that any given match could be his last, Nadal said no.
“I’m not sure what could happen. I believe, as I already stated, that I will participate in this tournament since we are preparing to do so, but I have no idea what will happen after that “he stated
“I have what I have in the foot, so if we can’t find an improvement or a modest solution on that, it’s going to be extremely difficult for me.”
“I’m simply enjoying every day at Roland Garros without thinking much about what can happen in the future,” Nadal said, adding that he will “keep working to find a solution.”
Djokovic thanked Nadal after the match, adding that he had played well “He demonstrated why he is a great champion. Staying psychologically tough and finishing the contest the manner he did was impressive.”
“I gave it my all,” the world No. 1 remarked, “but I know I could have played better.”
“I’m proud of how hard I fought and stayed till the very last shot. As I have stated, I was defeated by a better player today… after a four-hour match, and I must accept this defeat.”