Rafael Nadal insists he cannot know for sure if a Roland Garros game could be his very last in a place he loves, a place he loves.
If he keeps winning for now and performs like his monumental quarter-final win over longtime rival Novak Djokovic that started in May and ended in June, Nadal will have more chances to play.
With a mix of brilliant shot and his trademark resilience, Nadal overcame top-seeded defending French Open champion Djokovic 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6 (4) to move a step closer to 14th. Clay Grand Slam Tournament Championship and 22nd Major Trophy overall, adding to the records he already holds.
“One of those magical nights for me,” said Nadal.
For anyone lucky enough to be there too – assuming they could stay awake – or even anyone watching from afar. The game started just after 9 p.m. on Tuesday and ended more than four hours later, after 1 a.m. on Wednesday.
“Television decides,” said Djokovic about the late start. “This is the world we live in.”
CLOCK | Nadal overtakes Djokovic at French Open:
The brace said this was a quarter-final, yes, but it felt like a final, from the quality of the game to the quality of the effort, from the anticipation that preceded it to the atmosphere that surrounded it.
The only missing ingredient: no trophy was presented to the winner.
Nadal will turn 36 on Friday when he meets third-placed Alexander Zverev in the semifinals. When the topic of Nadal’s future was raised during his on-pitch interview, he smiled.
“By the way, we’ll see each other in two days,” said Nadal. “That’s all I can say.”
For the rest of the way, each match will be difficult to live up to.
Hardly a game, a point, a shot or even a step came with a hint of carelessness. Both men gave their all. Nothing came easy.
Nadal’s 3-0 lead in the second set didn’t do him any good; Djokovic finally took it and later said: “I was like, ‘OK, I’m back in the game.'”
But Djokovic’s 3-0 lead in the fourth round didn’t do him any good, despite serving 5-3 and even standing a point after twice forcing a fifth. Nadal saved those set points and broke there, then ran away with the final tiebreaker, claiming a 6-1 lead and never losing focus after his first three match points went wrong.
“I lost to a better player today,” said Djokovic, who had won 22 straight sets up until the 49-minute opener against Nadal. “Had my chances. Haven’t used them.
That showdown was her 59th, more than any other two men have played against each other in the Open era. Nadal cut Djokovic’s streak lead to 30-29 and improved to 8-2 against his rival at Roland Garros.
Nadal is now 110-3 for his career on the court. Two of those defeats came against Djokovic, including in last year’s semifinals. This time Nadal made sure Djokovic stayed behind him in the Slam count at 20. Nadal broke his three-point tie with Roger Federer at that number by conquering the Australian Open in January when Djokovic was unable to play because he wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19.
Fernandez’s hopes of a deep run are coming to an end
Leylah Fernandez’s dream run at Roland Garros ended in the quarterfinals on Tuesday – a combination of a tough matchup against her left-hander Martina Trevisan of Italy and a right foot injury that had to be treated in the first set in a 6-2, 6-7 ( 3), 6-3 defeat.
Trevisan served in the second set 5-4 for the match only to be broken and hit back at Fernandez to win the set in a tiebreak.
The third set looked like a one-way street at 0-4. But Fernandez kept fighting. It took nearly an hour for the 28-year-old Italian, a surprise quarterfinalist in Paris 2020, to score her second match point.
This time she finished the job and is making her first semi-final appearance at Roland Garros to face also first-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Coco Gauff of the United States.
The characteristic energy, exuberance and demonstration strength were absent from Fernandez’s game on Tuesday, no doubt in part due to foot concerns.
There hadn’t been any sign of a problem during their training session on Monday, at least not for the first hour. But it seems to have been a pre-existing problem.
CLOCK | The ailing Fernandez falls in 3 quarterfinal sets at Roland Garros:
After several hours of Fernandez allegedly being treated and a few postponements, the Canadian failed to meet with the media to shed light on the injury “on the advice of the tournament’s medical team.”
She was spotted with crutches in the women’s dressing room.
In fact, not much is known at all, particularly whether the injury is serious enough to affect their preparation and competition plans during the short grass season leading up to next month’s Wimbledon.
Bad Luck Day.
A few quick questions put to Fernandez by WTA communications officials yielded little information, although she was not asked what the problem was.
“Today was definitely unlucky. I felt it before the game but I didn’t think about it much. You know, it just happened and we just have to learn from it,” Fernandez said during a 58:2nd audio clip.
At the last point of the 2-2 game in the first set, Fernandez came limping.
When she got to her chair, the fitness trainer and doctor came out to treat what appeared to be a problem on the top of her right foot near the toes.
She also took some pills from the tournament doctor.
The foot was wrapped. And about 20 minutes later, when the pills finally kicked in, she resisted even more.
But in the end it was the combination of adrenaline and determination that pushed the match into a third set.
This was Fernandez’s first quarter-final at Roland Garros, with a large crowd at Court Philippe-Chatrier and a place in the semi-finals.
“Right now it’s a bit difficult to find positives because of course I wanted to reach the semifinals. But I think I’ll just have to take a few days off and then look back and see what I did well.” Fernandez told the tournament official. “We will just continue from there. I will now see what I can do to recover as quickly as possible.”
Fernandez was not scheduled to play in the opening week of the grass season next week. Her next scheduled tournament is the WTA 500 in Berlin, Germany, which starts on June 13th.
Trevisan “nervous” at the first match point.
Trevisan had a chance to win in two but Fernandez, hampered by a foot injury, saved a match point and then won the tiebreak.
“I was a little more nervous on the first match point,” Trevisan said in her on-court interview. “I thought too much … that I’m a point away from the semifinals.”
Trevisan twice had a double fault in the tiebreak but won the first seven points of the decider, breaking twice en route to a 4-0 lead.
Fernandez was 7-2 in three-set games this year, but Trevisan won the first seven points of the decider, breaking twice en route to a 4-0 lead.
Fernandez entered the French Open as the 18th player in the world but couldn’t get past the 59th Trevisan.
Gauff gets rid of Stephens
The appearance in the quarterfinals was the biggest success at Roland Garros for Fernandez, who was the only Canadian still in action at the French Open.
It was the tenth straight win for Trevisan, who reached the quarter-finals of the French Open two years ago. She won her first tour title this month in Rabat, Morocco.
Gauff passed her American compatriot Sloane Stephens 7-5, 6-2 in her biggest win at a Grand Slam.
Trevisan beat Gauff in the second round at Roland Garros during their quarter-final run in 2020.
“I feel so happy right now. Words can’t explain it,” said 18-year-old Gauff after reaching her first semifinal at a major. “Last year in the quarter-finals was a tough loss and that made me stronger for moments like today.”
Zverev stops Alcaraz
Many people predicted that 19-year-old rising star Carlos Alcaraz would exit this French Open as champion. He might one day. Not yet. Instead, it’s Alexander Zverev who still has a chance of winning his first Grand Slam title.
Zverev ended Alcaraz’s 14-match winning streak by holding him off 6-4 6-4 4-6 7-6 (7) on Tuesday night and reaching the semifinals at Roland Garros for the second time in a row.
“I told him at the net, ‘You’re going to win this tournament many times, not just once,'” said third-seeded Zverev, runner-up at the US Open in 2020 and a gold medalist at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics . “I hope I can win it before he starts … beating all of us.”
Zverev will now face off against the winner of Tuesday night’s much-anticipated, much more intriguing quarter-final between defending champion Novak Djokovic and 13-time champion Rafael Nadal. It was such a big deal that it was made available for free across France via the streaming service, which has exclusive access to this year’s night sessions at the clay-court major.