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Roland Garros: Djokovic, Nadal set heavyweight semifinal clash

  • Matt Trollope

World No.1 Novak Djokovic and defending champion Rafael Nadal will play for a place in the Roland Garros final after both came through their quarterfinals in four sets on Wednesday.

Nadal subdued the challenge of Argentine Diego Schwartzman for the second year running before Djokovic defeated Matteo Berrettini under lights at Court Philippe Chatrier. 

REPORT: Sakkari stuns Swiatek to set up Krejcikova semi at Roland Garros

Their victories set up a rematch of the 2020 final in Paris, which Nadal dominated in straight sets to win his 13th French title. 

Djokovic extends winning streak

The Serbian, who won his home title in Belgrade the week before arriving in Paris, is now undefeated in nine matches following his 6-3 6-2 6-7(5) 7-5 triumph over ninth seed Berrettini.

Looking to take a step closer to a 19th career Grand Slam singles title, Djokovic came incredibly close to a straight-sets win when he led 5-4 in the third set tiebreak, with two serves to come. 

But he lost both those points, and the Italian went on to force a fourth set – which had to be halted a few games in to allow fans to depart the stadium due to Paris’ COVID-19 curfew. 

With the atmosphere of the match now completely altered, Djokovic had to summon energy from within against an inspired opponent, who played an inside-out forehand winner to hold for 3-3 and which caused Djokovic to slip and fall heavily. 

Covered in clay yet unhurt, Djokovic continued to chip away at the Italian’s big game.

He accumulated three match points on Berrettini’s serve in the 12th game, converting his third and celebrating passionately.

Nadal survives Schwartzman surge

Earlier on Wednesday, Nadal battled Schwartzman for the third time in four years at Roland Garros. And while those matches have always been competitive affairs, the result was the same. 

Schwartzman played bold tennis against the four-time defending champion, taking the ball early and striking it aggressively to take the second set – the first set Nadal had dropped at Roland Garros since the 2019 final, ending his streak of consecutive sets won at 36.

Yet unlike women’s defending champion, who saw her 22-set winning streak in Paris come to an end during her surprising quarterfinal loss to Maria Sakkari, Nadal was able to rebound.

When he cut out his errors and lifted his intensity deep in the third, Schwartzman could not sustain the huge mental and physical effort required to hang with him.

Nadal ended up winning the final nine games of the match to complete a 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-0 victory.

The result improves Nadal’s record at Roland Garros to 105-2 and sets up a ninth career meeting with Djokovic at the tournament.
Nadal leads the series 7-1.

Like Djokovic, Nadal is also enjoying a winning streak; having won the Rome Masters title before heading to Paris, the Spaniard is now unbeaten in his last 10 outings.

Stat of the day

Schwartzman joined a select list of players to have won multiple sets against Nadal at Roland Garros.

He has now won two sets against the mighty Spaniard in Paris, having also extended Nadal to four sets in their 2018 quarterfinal.

Just four other men – Djokovic (7 sets), Roger Federer (4), Robin Soderling (3) and John Isner (2) – have won more than one set against Nadal at the clay-court Grand Slam.

Tweet of the day

Andy Murray continues to enjoy the Roland Garros action from afar, and he was right about Djokovic – the player who beat him in the 2016 French final – while watching the Serb’s quarterfinal against Berrettini.

Quotes of the day

“Obviously it's a well-anticipated semifinal. A lot of people talked about that potential matchup. Here we are. We had some battles over the years in this court. Last year he just dominated the finals against me. The quality and the level of tennis that I've been playing in the last three, four weeks on clay – Rome, Belgrade and here – is giving me good sensations and feelings ahead of that match. I'm confident. I believe I can win, otherwise I wouldn't be here.”
- Novak Djokovic

“Of course, the numbers are just amazing, no? But I can't think about that now, honestly. Let's talk about that when I finish my career. Now is a moment to be happy. I won an important match today against a tough opponent.”
- Rafael Nadal, when asked to reflect on his extraordinary career statistics at Roland Garros.

“I'm really proud of myself, really proud of my team, what we achieved. But at the same time I don't want to stop here. I'm still young. This is my second quarterfinals in a slam. I don't want to stop here. I want it more. I want to play in semifinal. I want to do a great tournament in Wimbledon. I know it's not going to be easy, but that's my mentality right now.”
- Matteo Berrettini

“The crowd was unreal today, amazing. Playing again almost full stadium, a lot of people here in Paris, first time since two years ago, playing with the public and crowd (saying) my name, everything was so nice. I think it was helping because I was feeling great on court. But I think at the end of the third set, they started to realise Rafa is maybe in problems, so they start to say his name, not any more my name (smiling).”
- Diego Schwartzman