Roland-Garros: Novak Djokovic faces the “greatest challenge” to dethrone Rafael Nadal | Tennis News
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Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic face off for the 58th time in their brilliant career as the Spaniard continues his search for a 14th title at Roland Garros, while Stefanos Tsitsipas meets Alexander Zverev in Roland’s youngest semi-final Garros since Nadal beat Djokovic in 2008
Last updated: 11/06/21 8:16 am
After the French Open welcomed four female semi-finalists for the first time on the pitch, there remains a familiar feeling in the men’s debates as a creeping Rafael Nadal continues his march to a 14th career singles title at Roland Garros.
It was a ‘further, the better’ mindset for world number 2 Daniil Medvedev regarding Nadal’s breakout on clay as late as possible, while world number 10 Diego Schwartzman did has made no secret of his wish to avoid the Spaniard in the same side of the draw in the future, such is his aura of invincibility in a tournament he has been leading for 15 years.
The latter had been Nadal’s last hurdle as he dared to threaten his authority with a valiant performance in their quarter-final clash only to eventually fall 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-0 after a compelling fourth set and decisive.
Six-time major champion Boris Becker suggested this week that the end of Nadal’s reign in Paris was a matter of time amid his pursuit of a fifth consecutive crown at Roland Garros. Novak Djokovic could have his say after defeating Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 to seal his place in the last four and draw in a semi-final game with his old enemy.
“It’s like no other game,” Djokovic said. “Let’s face it, this is the biggest challenge you can have, playing on clay against Nadal, on this ground where he has been so successful in his career, in the finals of a Grand Slam. do not exceed this.
“Of course, every time we face each other there’s that extra tension and expectation. [The] the vibrations are different when walking on the ground with him. But that’s why our rivalry has been historic, I think, for this sport. I have had the privilege of playing it so many times. “
Djokovic has a career record 29-28 against Nadal and is the last man other than the 35-year-old to win a singles title at Roland Garros after beating Andy Murray in 2016. Nonetheless, he won. one of seven encounters with Nadal in the competition as the duo prepare for the 58th round.
“[My] the rivalries with him and Roger (Federer) made me a stronger player, allowed me to understand how I have to improve my game to get to the level where they were when I started playing professional tennis “, a he added. “I will probably choose Rafa as the biggest rival I have ever had in my career.
“The quality and level of tennis that I have played in the last three, four weeks on clay, in Rome, Belgrade and here, gives me a good feeling and feeling ahead of this game. I am confident. I believe that I can win, or I wouldn’t be here. Let’s have a great battle. “
Nadal, who beat Djokovic in the May Italian Open final, is 26-0 after reaching the semi-finals at Roland Garros, on a 35-game winning streak – just behind his 2010-15 record of 39 – and was not beaten again by the Serbian on clay since Rome in May 2016.
His journey to the semi-finals saw him overtake Alexei Popyrin, Richard Gasquet, Cameron Norrie and Yannick Sinner in straight sets before pushing Schwartzman back to take his Roland Garros record to 105-2 since his debut in 2005.
While Djokovic sees Nadal as the ultimate test, the feeling is probably mutual.
“It’s always a big challenge,” Nadal said. “The best thing is you know you have to play your best tennis. It’s a game where you know what you have to do if you really want to have a chance to succeed and keep going. [in] Tournament.
“It’s a good thing because in some ways we play, we live the sport for these times. The downside is that it’s difficult because you’re playing against one of the best players in the world. ‘history.”
The final will see the old guard meet the next generation as world number 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on world number 6 Alexander Zverev in the other semi for a chance to win a first major title.
Tsitsipas has been powerfully impressive throughout, conceding a single set against John Isner on the way to the last four, where he sealed his place with a 6-3 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 on lead-headed Medvedev. series no 2 Wednesday. .
The 2021 Australian Open semi-finalist is looking to make one, if not two, better after losing to Djokovic in five sets at this point in the competition last year.
“I feel privileged to be in this position,” Tsitsipas said. “I obviously feel like I’ve done a lot of hard work every day and [that] has been a key part of my presence here. But my ego tells me I want more. “
Meanwhile, it represents another big step for Zverev who, having struggled in the later stages of tournaments early in his career, has now reached one major quarter-final, two semi-finals and one final in the last two. years, with the German admitting that self-imposed expectations had hampered his performance levels.
“The Grand Slam tournaments are the tournaments we want to win the most. Maybe before the last few years I was putting too much pressure on myself,” Zverev said. “Before Medvedev and Tsitsipas came along, I was seen as that guy who would suddenly take over the tennis world. I was also putting pressure on myself.
“I wasn’t very patient with myself, I feel like now maybe I’ve learned to handle the situation a little better. Maybe I’m a little calmer in tournaments. the end goal has not changed. “
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