(May 31, 2022) In their 59th career head-to-head meeting, No. 5 Rafael Nadal narrowed his gap to 29-30 when he stopped defending champion and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in the quarterfinals of the French Open late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning in Paris. The Spaniard is just two wins away from his 14th Roland Garros title and looking for his 22nd major crown which would put him two majors ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer. The match lasted a little over four hours.
Nadal avenged a loss to the Serbian in last year’s semifinals. He is now 8-2 against Djokovic at the French Open. He’s 110-3 for his career at Roland Garros.
“One of those magic nights for me,” Nadal said.
Nadal who will celebrate his 36th birthday on Friday will face third-seeded Alexander Zverev in the semifinals. Zverev defeated No. 6 seed Carlos Alcaraz 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7).
“It has been a very emotional night for me. I’m still playing for nights like today,” Nadal said in his news conference. “But it’s just a quarterfinal 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. Means a lot to me.”
“He showed why he’s a great champion,” Djokovic said to media. “Staying there mentally tough and finishing the match the way he did. Congrats to him and his team. No doubt he deserved it.”
“Of course we have a lot of history together,” Nadal said “A lot of important moments playing against each other. That’s the truth. In that case, [it] always is a special match, playing against Novak.
“Tonight [was] just a quarter-final match, not the final… But still a super classic match and in a big scenario. Between Novak, Roger [Federer], myself — we have an amazing story together facing each other in the most important matches for such a long time. So that makes things more special and more emotional.”
“I lost to a better player today,” said Djokovic. “Had my chances. Didn’t use them. That’s it.”
In women’s quarterfinal action, No. 18 seed Coco Gauff won a battle between Americans as she bested 2018 French Open finalist and 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens 7-5, 6-2 during the day session. It will be the 18-year-old’s first major tournament semifinal. She reached the final 8 last year for the first time but lost to the eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova.
The Floridian Gauff is yet to drop a set in the tournament.
“It’s important that you have high hopes for yourself, but also, at the same time, it’s important to be in reality and I think that’s where I am,” Gauff said after he match. “I’m in reality where I’m enjoying the moment and enjoying the situation.”
“I believe in myself. Even last year, I was too focused on trying to fulfill other people’s expectations,” said Gauff, who hasn’t dropped a set through five matches. “I know no matter how good or bad my career is, I know I’m a good person, so I think that’s a good message for young people. … Just know: If you love yourself, who cares what anyone else thinks?”
No. 59 Martina Trevisan of Italy will be Gauff’s opponent in the semifinals. Trevisan, 28, also reached her first major final four by defeating another left-hander – 17th seed and 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez of Canada 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-3. Fernandez suffered a foot injury in the first set and seemed hobbled for the rest of the match.
Trevisan beat Gauff in the second round at Roland Garros in 2020 as a qualifier, on her way to the quarterfinals in just her second main draw appearance at a major. It’s been a long road for the Italian to get to this stage. She was a promising player at 16 but was dealing with an eating disorder and constant pressure. She took an almost five-year absence from tennis and returned in 2014.