FRANCE: Rafael Nadal, the ‘King of Clay,’ defeated defending champion Novak Djokovic in the French Open 2022 quarter-final on Tuesday, May 31, in yet another epic struggle between the two greatest players of all time.
With a fantastic game of tennis against Djokovic, Nadal dispelled any questions about his condition. Djokovic had not dropped a set at this year’s clay-court Grand Slam until he encountered his arch-rival. Nadal overcame Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in 4 hours and 12 minutes in a see-saw fight that began in May and ended in June (local time).
Nadal has set up a semi-final match with World No. 3 Alexander Zverev, who beat young phenom Carlos Alcaraz earlier to avenge his heartbreaking loss in the 2021 semi-final.
After the thrilling quarter-final on Tuesday, Nadal extended his remarkable record at Roland Garros to 110-3. Two of those losses came against Novak Djokovic, including the semi-final loss last year.
The Clay Court King: Rafael Nadal
With the victory, Nadal appears to be on his way to winning his 22nd Grand Slam championship. He has increased his advantage over Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to two Majors.
The Spaniard thwarted Djokovic’s ambition to win back-to-back Roland Garros titles.
It’s incredible how Nadal continues returning to Roland Garros and producing magnificent tennis displays on the red dirt.
There were questions about whether Nadal will compete in the French Open after a six-week hiatus owing to a rib ailment a few months ago.
When he came back, he was not at his best as he was troubled by a chronic foot injury that flared up in Madrid and then in Rome.
There was no evidence of injury worries, though, as Nadal, who will turn 36 on Friday, played tremendous tennis against the World’s No. 1 tennis player.
Fans were taken down memory lane by his performance in the final 30 minutes of the fourth set when he returned from an early break to win the tie-breaker.
“It was really special. It was a very tough match, Novak is one of the best players in history, and all the history we have. There is only one way to beat Novak and that is to play at your best,” Nadal said during an on-court interview after his victory.
Nadal also put to rest the speculation about his aversion to playing night matches at the Philippe Chatrier by outclassing the greatest in the world in a match that began after 8:30 p.m. local time.
Nadal stormed to a 6-2 first-set victory, keeping a high success rate on his serves as he deflated Djokovic with the early surge.
He was up 3-0 in the second set, and it looked like he was going to bury the ghosts of 2021, but the Serb, known for his endless reservoir of resilience, came back to win the second set 6-4.
Just as the momentum had gone in Djokovic’s favour, Nadal fought back to win the third set 6-4.
When Nadal was broken early in the fourth set, he found himself in a difficult situation.
Nonetheless, the Spaniard didn’t let Djokovic get away with it, producing a level of tennis that even the Serb couldn’t match.