RAFA NADAL sensationally dethroned Novak Djokovic as French Open champion in a four-set chiller as he neared an unprecedented No. 22 Slam.
It was past 1am in Paris when these two athletic supermen put down their racquets at the end of a pulsating quarter-final at Roland Garros, played as the temperature dropped.
The decision to host this match so late at night is rightly debated and criticized but for now a tired Nadal won’t care as he advances to the semis on Friday at his favorite pitch against Alex Zverev.
Djokovic’s time as the defending champion is over after Nadal’s extraordinary 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 win that bizarrely started in May but ended in June.
Nadal said: “It was an incredible match. Very emotional. It’s incredible for me to play here. thanks to all
“It was a very tough game, Novak is one of the best players in history, it’s always a great challenger.
“The only way to win is to do your best from the first point to the last. A magical night for me.
“For me there is no other place like this. It’s the most important and special dish of my career. I feel the love of everyone here in Paris. This place means everything to me.”
And the world No. 1 will have to wait and see if Nadal, already a record 21-time Grand Slam champion, might add another Major to his Mallorca mansion on Sunday.
The 59th meeting of these icons – a record for men’s football – was never brief, ending up lasting more than four hours.
FREE BETS AND SIGN UP OFFERS – THE BEST OFFERS FOR NEW CUSTOMERS
The conventional wisdom was that Nadal, 35, would fight his biggest enemy because this competition was scheduled for the controversial night slot.
A tennis ball moves slower in cooler conditions and there was a feeling that Djokovic would have the upper hand in the long rallies on this chilly evening.
Indeed, Nadal’s camp made a concerted effort to demand that this encounter – their first meeting in 12 months – be scheduled for the warm afternoon sun.
Despite losing that fight before the game, Nadal immediately ran off the blocks and broke Djokovic’s serve in an opening game that lasted ten minutes.
Few would have predicted the Spaniard would take a 5-1 lead and remain in full control, his evil forehand dictating play.
When he won the first set thanks to 12 amazing winners, the crowd cheered as the sun went down over the French capital.
It was the first set 35-year-old Djokovic had lost in that tournament, breaking a 22-set winning streak stretching back to the Italian Open in Rome.
As the omens go, it was a decent one for Nadal fans – and there were many on Court Philippe-Chatrier – because the winner of the opening set had won 50 of the previous 58 games.
However, Djokovic has always been a fighter and despite falling 3-0 in the second set, he responded as always with courage and determination to step up.
It wasn’t the classic we were all expecting – there were way too many errors and double faults for that – but it was still quality in parts.
In a third set, which Nadal comfortably won, more and more empty seats appeared as players raced around the last Metros while those in the company boxes needed blankets to keep warm.
Tensions on the pitch rose as Djokovic hit the net with his racquet in the fourth net and Nadal argued with the referee over a controversial decision.
Although Nadal fell 5-2 and salvaged two set points in the fourth set, the No. 5 got his mojo back to prevail in the tie-breaker and show why he really is the King of Clay.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/5464221/rafa-nadal-beats-novak-djokovic-french-open-2022/ Rafael Nadal wins a sensational duel to dethrone French Open champion Novak Djokovic and move closer to the No. 22 Slam