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Rafa Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic in epic late night French Open thriller

With his spot in the French Open semi finals now assured, the Spanish king of tennis will be satisfied with his ability to hold his nerve against an ever dangerous opponent.

Paul Rudder
Rafa Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic in epic late night French Open thriller
Anadolu AgencyGetty

In what was a clash of two tennis Titans it was the Spaniard who finally emerged with the victory after a fourth set tiebreak.

Novak Djokovic loses to Rafael Nadal despite heroic comeback

Highly anticipated, the French Open quarter final showdown between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros lived up to every bit of the expectation that preceded it. With both icons of the sport playing out what ultimately became a game of tit for tat, it was the winner of some 21 grand slams Nadal, who kept his nerve to the very end. It would be less than precise, however, to neglect mention of the spirit comeback made by the Serbian. Indeed, Djokovic had lost both the first and third sets by a score of 6-2 and his 6-4 victory in the second set was definitely not easy. Yet with the kind of poise and fight that he’s become known for, the world No. 1 fought his way back into the match, eventually forcing a fourth set tie break, which sadly he was unable to win as he fell 7-6.

Rafa Nadal rolls on to French Open semi finals

Though the pair were essentially even across their grueling four hour plus match - the 59th meeting between them - it was Nadal who showed a greater sense of composure in the final stages which allowed him to clinch the tiebreak. Perhaps there was no better example than when delivered a backhand winner in the tiebreak after being stretched to 6-4. Djokovic began to fade after that point as it seemingly became apparent that his opponent was in no mood to give any quarter. With the win Nadal will now move on to face No. 3 seed Alex Zverev who had suffered a scare of his own earlier in the day when he had to thwart a spirited comeback from the rising star, 19 year old Carlos Alcaraz.

Problematic scheduling decisions and a pro Nadal crowd

As match time approached, the focus of the day was clearly on the decision to schedule the match for the night. Nadal’s camp of course expressed their displeasure at the notion that in colder temperatures there could be a decrease in the force of their man’s ground strokes. With that, the crowd which was noticeably in favor of the Spaniard made their allegiance known throughout the match as Nadal took on the man who has received much of the ire of tennis fans in recent months.

Nadal for his part responded by not only playing exceptional tennis in the first hour of the match, but essentially without any errors as well. Meanwhile it was the normal machine like Djokovic who appeared visibly uncomfortable with the conditions as he committed several errors. In light of that one can imagine the surprise of all present when at 3-0 down in the second set, the Serbian jolted to life before going on to actually win the set at 6-4. It was, however, a shortlived moment as Nadal began to display monk like concentration. Incidentally it should be said that in general the level of play on both sides of the night decreased as the match wore on, but Nadal maintained.

Novak Djokovic’s anger and Rafa Nadals prospects against Zverev

As he started to show his growing frustration with everybody on hand, including the boy balls, Djokovovic even smashed his racket into the net at the start of the fourth set. Surprisingly Nadal didn’t actually take full advantage of the moment, instead the Spaniard was actually broken as the Serb forced a decider with two set points and then an eventual tiebreak. The Serbian will undoubtedly feel hard done after falling to a player who he has shown on more than one occasion that he can beat. Where Nadal is concerned, he will definitely be liking his chances against the German.

For his part Zeverev was congratulatory in his words for the defeated Alcaraz, telling the young starlet that he will indeed be a king of Roland Garros in the future after his 6-4 6-4 4-6 7-6 victory. “He is an incredible player and I told him that he is going to win this tournament a lot of times. I just hope I can win it before he does,” Zverev said. Of course the world No. 3 was only stating what has become glaringly obvious since Alcaraz burst onto the scene. That’s to say that we are likely looking at a multiple Gran Slam champion of the future. Yet for the moment the focus will remain on the present Spanish king of tennis and that’s the man who is going to the French Open semi finals, Rafael Nadal.