Earthquake at Roland Garros: Rafael Nadal, thirteen times crowned on Parisian clay and in search of a 21st Grand Slam record trophy, was debunked by Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals after a fight of anthology over four hours Friday.
Djokovic ended up winning in four sets 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 and inflicting Nadal his third defeat at Roland Garros in 108 matches! His first for six years (not counting his package in 2016).
“Confronting Nadal on clay, on this court where he has been so successful, it’s the biggest challenge that can exist,” summed up the world No. 1 after qualifying for the last four.
After four hours of a face-to-face meeting of incredible intensity on the Philippe-Chatrier court, the world No. 1 has achieved the unthinkable.
How to sum up such a fight?
Perhaps we should start with this unbreathable third set, which stretched out for the duration of a football match – 97 minutes to be precise – and was the turning point of the match.
In this round, on several occasions, Djokovic took the advantage, but each time, Nadal came back. From a first break to lead 3-2, the Spaniard equalized at 3-3, from a new break that allowed the Serbian, at 5-4, to serve for the set and get closer to two points, he stuck to 5-5. At that point, we have been playing for about three hours, the curfew is fast approaching, and the two players are not decided to decide.
“We won’t be leaving! «
« We will not leave, we will not leave! « Chant the 5,000 spectators seated in the stands, soon answered when the announcer announces a dispensation granted by the authorities, greeted by a deafening acclamation and » Thank you Macron! « .
Just before, we reached peaks of tension when, in the end of the third set, « Nole » got two more break points to lead 6-5, in vain, before finding himself confronted with a set point, and to finally pull off a decisive game that changed everything.
Nadal started with a double fault but held on until 3-3. Two points later, a short forehand crossed winning at the end of an arm wrestling in the diagonal, and an excessively long volley from the Mallorcan after a defense of which Djokovic has the secret, the world No. 1 dug a decisive gap.
In bulk, throughout the game, superhuman rallies and unimaginable defenses jostled. One thinks in particular of this defensive lob of “Djoko”, come from elsewhere and come to vanish on the bottom line, in full money time. Or that smash by wrapping Nadal’s arm early in the game.
Shortly after 7 p.m., at the start of the match, the first two games, 17 minutes long, had given us an idea of what this infernal duo could reserve.
But everything had suddenly accelerated. So that after about thirty minutes, Djokovic was led 5-0 and we had a feeling of déjà vu: impossible not to think back to the 6-0 inflicted by Nadal at the opening of the final last fall.
This time, the Serbian, accompanied by the “Idemo! Idemo! Ditto ”sound of a small group of loyal supporters, saved a first game, and it was from there that he entered the fight. By coming back to 5-3 and not giving up the first set until Nadal’s seventh chance first. Then leading the dance in the second, although nothing was easy either.
Once he turned two sets to one in the lead, however, Djokovic had a firm hand. At Nadal’s brief 2-0 breakaway, “Nole” responded with a scathing 6-0. As a revenge on the lesson received in 2020.
“It’s the biggest game I’ve played here in Paris, also for the atmosphere. It was fantastic, ”appreciates the Serbian.
“I know that the years go by and that my chances of winning here are not forever, but that’s how it is, cashes ‘Rafa’. I’m not the type to have big celebrations when I win, or big dramas when I lose. «
Djokovic can savor his first victory against Nadal on clay in five years. Like the fact of being now the only player to have beaten him twice at Roland Garros, after 2015.