In a French Open quarterfinal match worthy of a championship classic, Rafael Nadal of Spain outlasted world No. 1 and rival Novak Djokovic of Serbia 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in a duel that began Tuesday night in Paris and ended past 1 a.m. Wednesday.
The four-hour, 12-minute marathon at Roland Garros marked the first men’s match in the Open era pitting opponents with at least 20 career Grand Slam wins, 1,000 match wins or 300 Grand Slam victories.
“Of course we have a lot of history together,” the fifth-seeded Nadal said after the victory. “A lot of important moments playing against each other. That’s the truth. In that case, (it) always is a special match, playing against Novak.”
Nadal trailed 3-0, 4-1 and 5-2 in the fourth set before he began to rally. He saved two set points during the 10th game and tied it at 5-5. In the fourth-set tiebreak, he won six of the first seven points and finally put it away on his fourth match point.
Nadal described it as “one of those magic nights” of his storied career.
“It has been a very emotional night for me. I’m still playing for nights like today,” Nadal said. “But it’s just a quarterfinal match, no? So I didn’t win anything. So I just … give myself a chance to be back on court in two days, play another semifinals here in Roland Garros.”
It marked the second straight match that took over four hours to complete for the Nadal, who turns 36 on Friday. Djokovic, who won the last head-to-head battle between the two living legends in last year’s semifinal, now leads the all-time series against Nadal 30-29.
“He showed why he’s a great champion,” Djokovic said of Nadal after the match. “Staying there mentally tough and finishing the match the way he did. Congrats to him and his team. No doubt he deserved it.”
In the semifinals, Nadal will continue his pursuit of extending his French Open record of 13 singles titles against Germany’s Alexander Zverev. The No. 3 seed Zverev defeated No. 6 seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7) earlier on Tuesday, reaching the semis at Roland Garros for the second straight year.
Alcaraz lost despite earning more winners — 46, to Zverev’s 39. Zverev had the edge in aces, 7-2, and he saved four of six break points while Alcaraz fended off five of eight.
Alcaraz went up 6-5 in the fourth-set tiebreaker and served for set point. Zverev saved that, took a 7-6 lead for match point and ultimately won on his second match point.
Zverev was highly complimentary of his 18-year-old opponent after the match.
“I told him … he’s going to win this tournament, many times, not only once,” Zverev said. “I hope I can win it before he starts beating us all.”
–Field Level Media