Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic in Roland-Garros quarter-finals

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Djokovic didn’t get the chance to play at the Australian Open this year. He was sent off on the eve of the competition after a confrontation with the Australian government over his non-vaccination against Covid-19. But he arrived in Paris and Tuesday’s game in more convincing form than Nadal, who is arguably the greatest male clay-court player in history but has been very short on surface games this year.

Nadal injured his ribs at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California in March, losing the final to American Taylor Fritz while playing with a stress fracture. He missed most of the start of the clay-court season and only returned for the Madrid Open in mid-May when he was upset by fellow 19-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz. in the quarter-finals.

Then came the Italian Open, his only other clay-court event before Roland Garros, where Nadal was beaten in three sets by Canadian Denis Shapovalov in an overnight round of 16 match in Rome in which he limped to upon arrival, grimacing in pain as his chronic left foot condition resurfaced. He was dejected after that loss but did not rule out playing at Roland Garros and arrived in Paris seeded fifth and with his longtime doctor, Angel Ruiz-Cotorro.

As so often, Nadal proved capable of playing and winning in pain, battling for a five-set victory in the fourth round over 21-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and then facing Djokovic for the 59th time. on tour and the 10th time at Roland Garros.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Djokovic said after the game. “It’s not the first time that he, you know, has been able a few days after he was injured and barely walking to come out at 100 per cent fitness. You know, he’s done it several times in his career, so I’m not surprised.

A year ago, in another emotional night match, Djokovic beat Nadal in four sets en route to the title. But this year Nadal turned things around even though Djokovic, who served for the fourth set, was twice only one point away from forcing a fifth. But on the first set point, Djokovic lost a long rally by hitting a backhand into the net. On the second he decided to be more aggressive but his approach shot was more upbeat than good and Nadal ran to his right and hit a backhand winner that Djokovic never came close to achieving.

It was soon 5-5 in the fourth set and Nadal quickly took control of the ensuing tiebreaker just as he had taken quick control of the match, jumping to a 6-1 lead and then swooping down. is hooked and closed out the win on his fourth match point with another backhand winner.

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