The Spanish Rafael Nadal fell in the semifinals of Roland Garros for 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) and 6-2, in four hours and 11 minutes, against the Serbian Novak Djokovic, that the final will play against the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas.
It is the Nadal’s third defeat in Paris in 108 games, the second at the hands of the Serbian, world number 1, the only one who has managed to defeat him on French clay with the Swedish Robin Soderling.
It was after an immense match, a tribute to clay tennis between the two best tennis players on that surface, an extraordinary award for the Serbian who, finally, managed to defeat the Spanish in full capacity.
In 2015 he did it with a physically and psychologically impaired Rafa and the others were all triumphs of the Spanish.
It was a duel in which the two tennis players showed that they are capable of breaking the laws of tennis, the anti-pandemic laws, the laws of nature. The public was able to attend the show until the end, because the authorities allowed it despite the curfew.
Nadal took out the steamroller from the start, lifted two break balls and put the direct to get 5-0. The Serbian took 35 minutes to score a point, but when he did, he chained 3, after hitting the fifth break point and lifting two set points from the Spaniard.
Nadal did not decompose, who waited for his next serve to close the sleeve, an hour after the start.
Djokovic’s improvement at the end of the first set was confirmed in the second, the Serbian was more incisive, more established in his service and, above all, more aggressive in the rest, which made blood in Nadal’s game, forced to go to the limit.
The Spaniard defended himself and created his opportunities, but he was not fine when it came to scoring them. Up to five breaking balls wasted, for a single scored.
The draw did not sit well with Nadal, blurred, timid with his service, attacked with the rest, who did not carburize, which gave wings to the Serbian, aggressive to the rest, always putting pressure on the Spanish, who seemed doomed to drift.
Night was falling in Paris and Nadal gave his worst face, hanging by a thread, waiting for a blow from the Serbian, clinging on with courage, subjected to merciless harassment.
With 5-4 Djokovic served to take the set, but Nadal always sells his skin expensive. He reacted to tie at 5 and accelerated to enjoy, in the next game, a set ball.
The Serbian rebuilt, lifted it and forced the playoff game, where it was more solid to place 2-1.
The show was tremendous on the track and the crowd didn’t want to miss it. “We will not leave, we will not leave!” Chanted the 5,000 authorized fans, as the 23:00 curfew approached.
As the players retired to the changing rooms, when the float was going to turn into a pumpkin, the public address system announced against all odds that, according to the French authorities, they could stay. It seemed difficult to evacuate. Applause and cheers in the stands, joy to continue watching the fantastic duel of the titans. “Merci Macron!” and let the show continue.
La Marseillaise sounds and the battle continues. Give and take. He started hitting the Spaniard, who snatched the service of the number 1, but his reaction was quick, he recovered it to the fourth and there his best version appeared, the one he needed to defeat the 13-time champion.
Nadal asked for assistance to remove a bandage from his left foot and Djokovic smelled the blood, advanced pawns and cornered the Spaniard, who saw how waterways were again opening on his waterline.
The night was already closed and the public felt that they were witnessing a historical moment. His breath was not enough. The ovation when he retired was emotional. Tomorrow, when he dawns again in Paris, the only Nadal that can be seen at Roland Garros will be the steel one that, forever, adorns the tournament in honor of the king.