The ‘King of clay’ Rafael Nadal will meet Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals of the French Open after being Felix Auger-Aliassime in five sets at Roland Garros
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Rafael Nadal will face Novak Djokovic in a mouth-watering French Open quarter-final following a comeback win against Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Nadal, a 13-time winner at Roland Garros, endured an intense battle with the Canadian before eventually winning 3-6 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3. And not for the first time in 2022, he will face the man he recently rose above in the list of Grand Slam wins following his remarkable success at the Australian Open.
For a time though, the World No 9 threatened to upset the script, as the Spaniard dropped sets for the first time in the tournament. And at 4-3 Nadal in the final set, the outcome remained very much in the balance.
It was then though that the 35-year-old displayed all his legendary resistance, producing a sublime baseline winner to set up two break points. He took the second of them, lunging forward and producing a drop shot to move within a game of victory.
He duly closed the match out clinically, continuing his remarkable record of never losing a five-setter on clay. And afterwards, he was full of praise for the man 14 years his junior.
“He is a great player without a doubt. One of the best players in the world,” he said. “He is very young and with a lot of power and mobility. For me, he was a very, very tough opponent today.
“He does a lot of things well and has been improving and I wish him the very best for the rest of the season. It is a very important victory for me without a doubt.”
It’s been quite the weekend for Nadal, who on Saturday night was at the Stade de France to watch his beloved Real Madrid win a 14th European crown. Real beat Liverpool 1-0, courtesy of a second-half goal from Vinicius Jr.
Things proved more straightforward for two-time champion Djokovic, who comfortably saw off world No 15 Diego Schwartzman. The Serbian prevailed 6-1 6-3 6-3, despite encountering jeers as he arrived on court.
The two icons will now clash for the first time this year. They last clashed on clay at the semi-final stage in Paris in 2021, with Djokovic winning in four sets.
The 34-year-old would go on to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final, and then also won at Wimbledon to draw level with his great rival on 20 Slam wins. He missed out on No 21 at the US Open though, losing in the final to Daniil Medvedev.
And then in early 2022, he missed the Australian Open following the explosive visa saga which saw him deported out of the country the day before the tournament began. Nadal took full advantage, coming from two sets down to beat Medvedev in the final.