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 title.
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, “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 .”
He told reporters after his four-set triumph over Djokovic that 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.”
When asked if he feels any extra emotional pressure knowing that any given match could be his last, Nadal said no.
“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.”
Djokovic thanked Nadal after the match, adding that he had played well “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.”