Rafael Nadal epic beats Novak Djokovic to reach French Open semifinals against Alexander Zverev


Rafael Nadal epic beats Novak Djokovic to reach French Open semifinals against Alexander Zverev

Rafael Nadal emerged victorious from another titanic French Open duel with Novak Djokovic, moving one step closer to a record-breaking 22 Grand Slam titles.

Nadal, a 13-time champion in Paris, showed all his fighting spirit and quality to win a thrilling quarterfinal 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6(3) with the match lasting four hours and Lasted 12 minutes and ended at 1:15 a.m. local time.

The score doesn’t do justice to a remarkable contest – 59th in the rivalry – that included multiple mammoth plays, stunning shots, shaky swing changes and Nadal’s lead with a double break in all the first three sets, an 84-minute second set, and Djokovic spurned two set points to force a deciding set – it all played out in a vibrant atmosphere on Court Philippe Chatrier, even as the temperature dropped late at night.

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In the end it was Nadal who prevailed, raising his arms in celebration as he secured his place in the last four against Alexander Zverev, who had previously beaten Carlos Alcaraz in four sets.

“Novak is without a doubt one of the best players in history, so it’s an amazing challenge to always play against him with all the history we have together,” Nadal said afterwards.

“Today was a different one and to win against him there is only one way: do your best from the first point to the last. Tonight was one of those magical nights for me; an unexpected level but super happy.”

Nadal is now just two wins away from a 22nd Grand Slam title that would put him two ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Tim Henman had described this as the “most important” men’s match in the race for the most major titles in the last 10 years, and there was excitement and drama throughout.

The opening game set the tone, lasting 10 minutes and featuring a riveting 22-shot rally before Djokovic netted to give Nadal the early break.

From there, the Spaniard ran away with the set and broke again to make it 4-1 with a vicious forehand winner down the line.

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Supported by the majority of a vociferous crowd, Nadal tried to control the competition, finding the target with his serves and forcing Djokovic to make mistakes.

Nadal didn’t let up after a 49-minute first set and the winners kept flying as he created seven break point chances in an epic opening game of the second set.

Eventually the pressure showed, a forehand pushed Djokovic into the corner and Nadal volleyed at the net to break.

“Huge comeback!” – Djokovic wins second set with amazing recovery against Nadal

Nadal consolidated the break and then added another, slipping into a drop shot and throwing the return down the line for his 23rd win and a 3-0 lead.

But after looking below his best in the first hour, Djokovic started to raise his level, hitting on both wings with more consistency and power.

The world no. 1 broke back 3-1 and then won an 18-minute game six in which Nadal was timed on serve to get back level.

The momentum seemed to be with Djokovic as he won a fourth straight game but Nadal dragged himself back to his best level and played some scintillating points to hold 4-4.

However, the 13-time champion failed to fend off Djokovic on his next service game, missing twice in a row from the back of the court to give up the set.

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But Djokovic came out flat early in the third set, falling 2-0 down. Another long serve saw Nadal extend the advantage to 3-1 and a poor serve from Djokovic saw him give up another break.

The world No. 1 looked like a different player from the one who won the second set as the penalty count began to creep up again, with a wildly missed forehand giving Nadal the set.

With fans in the crowd wrapped in blankets as the temperature dropped, Djokovic showed his frustration as he hit the net after losing the point.

‘Come on!’ – Watch Djokovic’s bat net with racquet as the crowd boos

But Djokovic then broke when a drop shot from Nadal just missed after being checked by the referee while speaking to the Spaniard.

Djokovic seemed poised to lead the match 5-2 into a decider until Nadal found another level, saved two set points and broke back in an incredible game.

As the crowd on Chatrier roared at him, Nadal upped the tempo and found that Djokovic left a lot to be desired.

Nadal took a 6-1 lead in the tie-break when Djokovic’s racquet slipped an error and despite a comeback from world no. 1, it was Nadal who clinched a memorable win.

Highlights: Nadal defeats Djokovic in French Open classic to reach semifinals

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Stream the French Open 2022 live and on-demand on Discovery+

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‘A magical night’ – Nadal revels in reaching an ‘unexpected level’ in defeating Djokovic


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‘Incredible, unbelievable’ – reaction to Nadal’s win over Djokovic in an epic duel


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