Rafael Nadal downs Novak Djokovic in their marquee quarterfinal clash at the French Open on Tuesday.
Nadal won the 59th installment of the legendary rivalry 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) in a match that began Tuesday night and finished after 1 a.m Wednesday morning in Paris.
The Spaniard thus set up a semi-final clash against Alexander Zverev, who sent Carlos Alcaraz packing earlier in the day.
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“It has been a very emotional night for me. I’m still playing for nights like today,” Nadal said in his post-match press conference.
“But it’s just a quarter-final match, no? So I didn’t win anything.
“So I just [need to] give myself a chance to be back on court in two days, play another semifinals here in Roland Garros. [It] means a lot to me.”
The Spaniard led by a set and a double break before Djokovic stormed back to level, but Nadal reasserted himself with a dominant third set.
It was the World No. 1 who started strongest in the fourth, but Nadal saved two set points to deny his attempt to serve out the set and force a decider.
Three days ahead of his 36th birthday, Nadal powered to victory in a one-sided tie-break.
“He showed why he’s a great champion,” Djokovic said in press.
“Staying there mentally tough and finishing the match the way he did. Congrats to him and his team. No doubt he deserved it.”
Nadal avenged his semi-final loss one year ago at Roland Garros — the most recent meeting between the pair.
By ending Djokovic’s title defence, Nadal moves within two victories of a record-extending 14th Roland Garros title and 22nd major crown.
Had Djokovic advanced, he would have had a golden opportunity to tie Nadal by winning his 21st Grand Slam title.
Nadal improved to 29-30 in this ATP Head2Head series by breaking serve seven times on 17 chances, including twice in each of the first three sets.
He saved eight of the 12 break points he faced.
The Spaniard has now won consecutive matches of four-plus hours. After defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday after four hours and 20 minutes, he moved past Djokovic in four hours and 11 minutes.