Novak Djokovic to Play Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros Final
Djokovic held off No. 5 seed Stefano Tsitsipas in five sets 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1 to advance to his fifth Paris final in three-hours and 54 minutes. Tsitsipas saved a match point in the third set before attempting a comeback which faltered in the fifth set.
In the first semifinal Nadal defeated 12th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(0) in his semifinal match on Court Philippe-Chatrier. It was a little bit of revenge for Nadal who lost to the Argentine in the Rome semifinals.
“Today I think the experience of Rome help me in some way because I was able to take a look on the match, to analyze the things that worked well and things that, of course, didn’t work,“ said Nadal, 34.
“I think at the half of the first set I make a couple mistakes tactically and of course technically. But in general terms, I am super happy about the match. Have been an important victory for me against a very tough player. To win against Diego, you have to work a lot and you have to play well for such a long time. That’s what I did today, no? I think I played solid. I played with the right determination in most of the moments of the match. Especially in the tiebreak I finished the match playing well. I needed to be a little bit more aggressive – a little bit – at the half of the third set when I had the score in my favor. I lost couple of opportunities there to close the match before and to not suffer like I suffered at the end.”
The defending champion Nadal is now 99-2 at Roland Garros.
“I know when I play Diego it’s difficult to the very end.” Nadal said in his on-court interview. “A few weeks ago, I lost to him in Rome and I’m happy to be improving each day. I didn’t play my best in Rome, but he always plays his best and he had a fantastic win against Dominic [Thiem] a few days ago.”
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Nadal is now in his 13th Roland Garros final, his 28 major final overall. The Spaniard will be going for his record-extending 13th French Open title and 20th major title equaling Roger Federer.
For his efforts this fortnight in reaching his first major final four, Schwartzman will move into the Top Ten in the rankings next week at No. 8.
What looked to be straight set win for the world No. 1 turned into a five-set marathon. Djokovic, 33, served for the match at 5-4 in the third and even had a match point, but the Greek Tsitsipas did not go down without a fight.
“I feel, I can say, happy and at the same time sad,” Tsitsipas said. “Could have been a better result for me today. Novak showed once again what an incredible athlete and his ability on the courts. Was difficult, for sure, playing him. I think one of the most difficult opponents I’ve faced in my entire life. I have huge respect for that. He gave me a really difficult time on the court. Unfortunately towards the end of the match an injury that I had during my match in Rome came back. It was difficult to close the match in a fighting way, in a fighting spirit. But I tried my best despite all of this. I’m happy that I came back from two sets to love down and tried to stay in the match as long as possible.”
“Yes, there are many things that I can take. Again, I had an amazing comeback. I wish I could have figured certain things earlier which, I don’t know, I felt like it was a total demolition, the fact that I tried those things in practice and tried to implement them in the match. It was something new. I wish I wouldn’t have tried these things and tried to stay to my ordinary and basic way of feeling the ball and also trying to dictate the game. I think that was a huge mistake today, that I tried this for two sets in a row, then came back to my old way of doing things. Yeah, as you saw, it was a good comeback, and I think I played great tennis after that, except the fifth set, which I believe my body was not ready. Physically I wasn’t really there present.”
“I was definitely not pleased with the way I played the finishing stages of the third and fourth set, but I was very pleased with the way I kept my composure mentally throughout the entire match,” Djokovic said to media. “I did feel that even though I lost the third and fourth, I still felt like I was the better player on the court. I had more control. I just felt comfortable playing. Credit to him for fighting back. He just played terrific tennis, especially in the fourth set when he was facing break points. I had many opportunities to break his serve in the fourth and finish the match earlier. He’s a fighter. He’s one of the best players in the world. Deservedly so. Obviously he was also fighting for his first Grand Slam final. Of course, there was a lot at stake for him. He was motivated to try to turn the match around, which he did very well. But in the end I think he ran out of gas. That’s when I stepped it up, used my opportunities when they were presented in the fifth, and closed out the match in a great fashion.”
Djokovic will be looking for his second French Open title to complete two sets of complete career Grand Slams. A win on Sunday would be the Serb’s 18th major title. Djokovic is 29-26 against Nadal.
“The only thing I know is to play against Novak, I need to play my best,” Nadal said to media. “Without playing my best tennis, situation is very difficult. I know that is a court that I have been playing well for such a long time, so that helps. But at the same time he has an amazing record here, too, being in the final rounds almost every single time. Is one of the toughest opponents possible. But I am here to keep trying my best. I like to play in this scenario. I know I have to make a step forward. I think I did one today. But for Sunday is not enough. I need to make another one. That’s what I’m looking for. I going to work hard to try to make that happen.”
“Obviously the conditions are different than the ones that we are used to playing in May and June” said Djokovic. “I think that could be a better chance for me, obviously the ball not bouncing as high over the shoulder as he likes it usually. Yeah, I mean, look, regardless of the conditions, he’s still there, he’s Rafa, he’s in the finals and we’re playing on clay. Best-of-five playing him in the finals at Roland Garros, I know that feeling. I did lose to him on this court most of the matches that we played, but I also won one match in 2015 in straight sets in quarters. That’s the match that I’ll look back at and obviously try to take some positives out of it and use it tactically against him. I’m not feeling exhausted physically so much after tonight’s match, obviously almost four hours. It was a great battle. But I feel fine. I think a day and a half will be plenty of time for me to recover. I’m really looking forward to a great battle with Rafa.”
More to follow…..