Paris: On Tuesday, Novak Djokovic will renew his 16-year battle with Rafael Nadal at the French Open, where a semi-final position is at stake, and victory for the world number one may end the 13-time Roland Garros champion’s career.
Nadal, who turns 36 on Friday, will defend his record of 109 wins and three losses in Paris since his title-winning debut in 2005 against the defending champion.
In the fourth round, the Spaniard was taken to five sets for the third time in the competition by 21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime.
In the immediate aftermath of his victory, Nadal stated that it was not only this year’s French Open on the line but also his entire playing career.
“I understand my condition, and I accept it,” said Nadal, who arrived in Paris unclear whether he would be able to compete due to a recurrence of a severe foot issue that has plagued him for the most of his career.
“I am just enjoying that I am here for one more year. And being honest, every match that I play here, I don’t know if it’s going to be my last at Roland Garros,” he added.
Since their first match at the 2006 French Open, Djokovic has a 30-28 advantage over Nadal.
Nadal leads the pair 19-8 on clay and has won seven of their nine meetings in Paris.
On the other hand, Djokovic won the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2021, his route to his second victory.
For the 16th time, both men are in the Roland Garros quarter-finals.
Djokovic breezed through to the final eight. He has won 22 sets in succession, dating back to his Italian Open victory in Rome.
“I’m glad that I didn’t spend too much time on the court up to the quarter-finals, knowing that playing Nadal in Roland Garros is always a physical battle,” said Djokovic.
A battle of wills over scheduling added another dimension, which Nadal lost Monday when organizers chose the quarter-final for the night session under the Court Philippe Chatrier lights.
Alcaraz becomes the youngest man to reach French Open QF
Meanwhile, Alcaraz, 19, became the youngest man since Djokovic in 2006 to reach the last eight in Paris. He has a 20-1 record on clay in 2022, with only one loss. He is 32-3 on the season.
The sixth seed had to save a match point in the second round to upset compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas but was otherwise unburdened by expectations.
Alcaraz takes on third-seeded Zverev, whom he overcame in the final of the Madrid Masters, where he also defeated Nadal and Djokovic.
Zverev spiced up the match by suggesting Alcaraz is being favoured by the organizers, who have granted the teenager three games out of four on Chatrier so far.
While Djokovic, Nadal, Zverev, and Alcaraz struggle at the top of the draw, the fourth-round losses of second-ranked Daniil Medvedev and fourth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 2021 runner-up, have blown open the bottom section.
As a result, one of Holger Rune, Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev, or Marin Cilic will advance to the final on Sunday.