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Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic in Roland Garros quarterfinal clash between legends
The Spaniard is now two wins away from the 14th Roland Garros title—and 22nd Grand Slam title—of his career.
Published May 31, 2022
In the first match in tennis history between two men who—at the time—both have 20 or more Grand Slam titles to their name, Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4), in an absolute blockbuster of a quarterfinal at Roland Garros on Tuesday.
The 35-year-old Nadal is now through to the 15th Roland Garros semifinal of his career, and two wins away from the 14th Roland Garros title of his career.
“The feeling about playing in the most important place and the most special place personally in my tennis career, I feel the support of all the crowd is just something very difficult to describe. So just can’t thank enough everyone here in Paris for making me feel that way,” the Spaniard said afterwards in his post-match press conference.
“Have been one of those unforgettable nights. So thank you very much, everyone.”
In the pair's 59th career meeting, the record for most tour-level meetings between two men in the Open Era, Nadal was dialed in from the start, breaking in the opening game of the match and eventually opening up a set-and-a-double-break lead at 6-2, 3-0.
Djokovic started finding his range in the second set, winning six of the next seven games to take the set, 6-4, and even the match at a set apiece—but the momentum swung in Nadal’s favor again from there, as he jumped out to a 4-1, double-break lead in the third set, eventually tucking that one away, 6-2, for a two-sets-to-one lead.
Djokovic caught fire again from the beginning of the fourth set, building a 5-2 lead, and even bringing up two set points in his 5-3 service game—but Nadal wasn’t ready to go to a fifth set just yet, clawing his way back to 5-all in the fourth, trading holds with Djokovic en route to the tie-break and then flying to victory from there.
Nadal finished the match with a +13 differential of winners to unforced errors, 56 to 43, while Djokovic had 48 winners to 53 unforced errors on the day.
The Spaniard saved his 56th and final winner for the last point of the match, blasting a huge backhand down the line to end it after four hours and 12 minutes on court.
“In the end it has been a very emotional night for me. I’m still playing for nights like today,” Nadal said. “But is just a quarterfinals 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—means a lot to me.”
The 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Roland Garros champion is now 110-3 in his career at the clay-court major.
He'll face Alexander Zverev, who's chasing his first major title, in the semifinals.
After Nadal, Djokovic is the most decorated clay-court player out there right now—he’s the only other active male player with multiple Roland Garros titles, winning on the terre battue in 2016 and 2021, and he’s also the only player ever to beat Nadal twice at Roland Garros, achieving that monumental feat in the 2015 quarterfinals and 2021 semifinals.
He only had kind words to say about the Spaniard after the match.
“I had my chances. You know, I had my chances in the fourth. Served for the set, couple set points. Yeah, just one or two shots. Could have taken me into a fifth. Then it’s really anybody’s match," the 20-time Grand Slam champion said.
“But again, he showed why he’s a great champion. You know, staying there mentally tough and finishing the match the way he did. Congrats to him and his team.
"No doubt he deserved it.”
Djokovic still maintains the lead in the pair’s career head-to-head, 30-29, and unless Zverev goes on to win the title this weekend, the Serb will remain at No. 1 next week.