PARIS: Novak Djokovic said against Rafael Nadal (Photo) for the 58th time on Friday, with a place in the Roland-Garros final at stake, it will be “a great battle” against his “greatest rival of all time”.
Djokovic ensured the long-awaited clash when he reached his 40th Grand Slam semi-final with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 victory over Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.
This will be his 11th appearance in the quarterfinals in Paris where he was champion in 2016.
The 13-time winner Nadal beat Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 to advance to the semi-finals for the 14th time.
He will play his 35th Slam semi-final.
“I will probably choose Rafa as the biggest rival I have ever had in my career,” said the world number one. 1 Djokovic.
“The anticipation of the game against him, any game, any surface, any occasion, is always different from any other.
“Let’s have a big battle.
Although Djokovic has the advantage at 29-28 in their overall rivalry dating back 15 years, Nadal is 7-1 in his meetings at Roland Garros and a 19-7 record on clay.
Djokovic’s last victory over the Spanish clay star was in Rome five years ago.
Nadal’s record in Paris now stands at 105 wins against just two defeats.
One of those losses, however, was at the hands of Djokovic in 2015.
With Djokovic’s quarter-final stretching beyond the 11pm national curfew, play was halted for around 20 minutes at 3-2 in the fourth set so that 5,000 fans could be evacuated from the Philippe Chatrier court. .
Djokovic ultimately won the match on a third match point in Game 12, but only after being kicked off a billboard frustrated at missing the first two.
His scream in the damp night air was a testament to his relief as his attempt to win a 19th Grand Slam and be the first man in over 50 years to claim that all four majors had stayed on the right track twice. way.
“It was a release of all the emotions I had kept in me,” said Djokovic who hit 44 winners and saved all three break points he faced against the Italian.
“After all the fans left and the short break, it was not easy to find the rhythm. It was a really tough game for me. “
He added: “It was a great battle against a player who serves well and who is powerful. Maybe I could have finished in the tie-break, but I’m glad I won. “
Nadal also has a prominent landmark in Paris.
If he reaches Sunday’s final and wins, he would get a record-breaking 21st Major, edging Roger Federer in the all-time race.
Wednesday’s nighttime session was the 10th and last in this year’s tournament, but it was the first to allow fans after the 9 p.m. Covid-19 curfew was pushed back to 11 p.m.
The previous nine sessions were played in a short empty Philippe Chatrier, not a good pace for the streaming giant Amazon which had obtained the broadcasting rights.
“To be honest, I thought the atmosphere was like Davis Cup,” said Djokovic.
“It was a lot of fans involved, every point cheering, shouting. Just an electric atmosphere there.
“I’m glad I had this experience of playing in front of the crowd in the night session.” – AFP