Rafael Nadal maintained on track for a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title after defeating arch rival Novak Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) in a spectacular French Open quarter-final encounter on Tuesday, putting a stop to talk of the Spaniard’s dominance.
The 13-time Roland Garros champion, who was upset in the semi-finals here last year by the world number one, arrived in Paris nursing two injuries that had affected his training.
After surviving a five-set drama in the previous round against Felix Auger Aliassime, the Spaniard, who has only lost three times at the French Open since his maiden appearance in 2005, knows every inch of the vast Philippe Chatrier court, and Djokovic paid for the reminder.
After being prevented from competing in the Australian Open by local authorities due to his unwillingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19 – a major that Nadal won – the Serbian is still at 20 Grand Slam championships.
Nadal unleashed the punches and had defending champion Djokovic on the ropes in a high-octane start under the spotlights on the day teenaged Carlos Alcaraz, who has been widely regarded as his future, was knocked out.
Djokovic came back in an 88-minute second set, but Nadal, 35, found the strength to finish it in four sets despite being a break down in the fourth, and set up a match with German third seed Alexander Zverev for a spot in the final on Sunday.