Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal to face Novak Djokovic in French Open quarter-final 

Image Source: LA Times

Rafael Nadal has played 112 tennis matches at Roland Garros in his career, and he has only lost three times on these grounds. But an even more ludicrous measure of his absolute supremacy is the number of players who have ever managed to push him to the brink of doubt. Only twice in his 17-year career had an opponent taken him to five sets at the French Open, and it was on Sunday afternoon. 

With quality, courage, and conviction in his abilities, Felix Auger-Aliassime strode onto Court Philippe Chatrier, forcing a fifth set and pushing Nadal all the way. Nadal, on the other hand, soared even as he struggled with his game at a time when he urgently needed to step up. Still chasing his 14th French Open crown, Nadal defeated Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the quarterfinals. 

As a result of Nadal’s triumph, he and Novak Djokovic will renew their storied rivalry on the grandest stages on Tuesday when they meet in the quarterfinals for the 59th time. 

“At the end of the day, the sport is usually fairly straightforward, isn’t it?” Nadal said afterward. “If you play better, you have more chances; if you play worse, you obviously have fewer chances, right?” In that situation, I won the match because I performed well. I had a lot of problems when I wasn’t playing well, didn’t I?” 

Toni Nadal chose the most visible seat in the house for the match-up between his two employees, his nephew and his charge: the front row of the presidential box. He observed as, following the excitement of Real Madrid’s Champions League victory, Nadal began the match off-kilter on a very cold afternoon. 

Auger-Aliassime served well enough and played solidly off the ground to lead 5-1 as Nadal sprayed errors and squandered multiple break points. After regaining one break at the end of the first set, Nadal embarked on a seemingly unstoppable comeback that resulted with a break at 4-3 in the second. The Spaniard then carried his momentum to a two-set victory. 

Just when it looked like Nadal had the upper hand, he began the fourth set with a flurry of unforced errors. Nadal dropped his serve in the first game, then immediately recovered the break, only to lose it again with more terrible forehand errors. 

Auger-Aliassime remained focused on himself while Nadal labored. He hit Nadal with well-timed drop shots, continued to look for forehands to dominate with, and dominated at the net. He was given a fifth set for his perseverance and calmness. 

Auger-Aliassime continued to push himself to the edge in the final set, serving solidly and making challenging volleys. At 4-3, though, Nadal made his move, radically raising his game by attacking returns and closing the net himself. Nadal chased down Auger-drop Aliassime’s volley and snuck a slice backhand into the open court to take the decisive break after pressing hard to create a break point opportunity. After alternating between chanting for the two players throughout the match, the crowd finished shouting for one guy solely as he served out the match with ease. 

The next challenge for Nadal is obvious. Earlier on the day, Djokovic easily dispatched 15th seed Diego Schwartzman, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3. “Playing him in Roland Garros is always a physical challenge, in addition to everything else,” Djokovic explained. “It occurs. It’s a massive test, possibly the largest you’ll face here at Roland Garros. “I’m prepared to face it.” 

After defeating Karen Khachanov 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, Carlos Alcaraz advanced to his first French Open quarter-final. The third seed, Alexander Zverev, will be his next opponent.

Opinions expressed by San Francisco Post contributors are their own.

Harry Wright

Harry completed his master’s degree in Information Science. He’s an avid supporter of LGBTQIA+ rights and access to information and free education for the marginalized sectors.

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