Rafael Nadal edged a late-night classic against old rival Novak Djokovic in the early hours of Wednesday in four sets to reach his 15th French Open semi-final.
The 13-time Roland Garros champion won the pair’s 59th career meeting 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) after a four-hour-and-12-minute quarter-final on a raucous Court Philippe Chatrier.
Nadal sealed his eighth victory in 10 French Open matches against last year’s winner Djokovic at 1:16 AM local time (4:46 hrs IST) to set up a last-four clash with third seed Alexander Zverev on Friday.
“I’m very emotional. For me it’s incredible to play here,” said Nadal.
“Playing against him is always an amazing challenge... To win against Novak, there is only one way, to play your best from the first point until the last.”
The 35-year-old has lost just three of his 113 matches on the Paris clay since his 2005 title-winning debut and now only trails Djokovic 30-29 in their career head-to-head.
The Spaniard, seeded fifth, remains on course for a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title after lifting this year’s Australian Open, which Djokovic missed after being deported from the country over his Covid vaccination status.
Djokovic overturned a double-break deficit to take an 88-minute second set and missed two set points when serving for the fourth to force a decider.
The World No 1 will rue those missed chances while he waits until Wimbledon for his next opportunity to take his Slam tally to 21.
“Congratulations to Rafa, he was better in the important moments,” said Djokovic.
“He showed why he was a great champion. Well done to him and his team, he deserves it.”
Nadal was a slight underdog heading into the match after being taken to five sets in the previous round by Felix Auger-Aliassime and he had even hinted it could be his last appearance in Paris due to a persistent foot injury.
The colder, slower conditions of the night session were also expected to favour Djokovic.
But the ‘King of clay’ smashed 57 winners in a trademark performance to delight the crowd as he gained revenge for his semi-final loss to the same opponent 12 months ago.
Zverev holds firm against Alcaraz
Alexander Alexander Zverev beat Carlos Alcaraz in a dramatic four-set clash earlier on Tuesday to secure a French Open to enter the semi-final, where he will play Nadal.
The German third seed claimed a 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7) victory over 19-year-old Spanish sensation Alcaraz after three hours and 18 minutes.
Zverev moved into his second straight last-four match at Roland Garros with his first-ever Grand Slam win over a top-10 player.
“I hope I can win it before he starts beating us all and we have no chance,” said Zverev.
“The match was swinging his way. I’m extremely happy to win the tie-break.”
Alcaraz has won four titles this year, including two Masters 1,000 events, but made 56 unforced errors as he missed the chance to reach a first major semi-final.
Instead, Olympic champion Zverev reached the last four at a Slam for the fifth time in his career to maintain his bid for a first title at one of the sport’s four biggest events.
It also gave him a measure of revenge for the heavy defeat he suffered against Alcaraz in the Madrid Masters final earlier this month.
Alcaraz delighted the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd with a rally to take the third set.
A dramatic fourth set saw Zverev miss a chance to serve out the tie, but he sealed victory on his second match point in the tie-break.
Gauff, Trevisan make first semi-finals
Teenage star Coco Gauff and Martina Trevisan, a seasoned Italian professional who rebuilt her career after conquering anorexia, reached their maiden Grand Slam semi-finals at the French Open on Tuesday.
Gauff, who burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old history-maker at Wimbledon three years ago, defeated fellow American Sloane Stephens 7-5, 6-2.
Trevisan needed three sets to see off 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-3.
Victory for Gauff, 18 years old and ranked 23 in the world, avenged her defeat to Stephens at the 2021 US Open and helped erase the memory of her quarter-final defeat last year to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova in Paris.
“I feel so happy,” said Gauff. “Last year was a tough loss for me but I believe that match made me stronger.
“Last time I played Sloane I lost. Today was different. I stayed mentally strong as she is the kind of player who can make shots others can’t do.”
Meanwhile, World No 59 Trevisan, 10 years older than Gauff, was a shock quarter-finalist in 2020.
She arrived at the French Open with a maiden WTA title in Rabat and went into Tuesday’s tie on a nine-match winning streak.
She made that 10 when she claimed victory on a second match point having wasted one in the second set with Fernandez left to rue her 44 unforced errors.
“I was very nervous on that first match point, I thought I was already in the semi-final,” said Trevisan, the first Italian woman to make the last four since Sara Errani in 2013.
Trevisan, now guaranteed a place in the top 30 at least, said Grand Slam titles by fellow Italians Francesca Schiavone in Paris in 2010 and Flavia Pennetta at the 2015 US Open were her influences.
“They are happy for me. They are my biggest inspirations.”
Two years ago, Trevisan, then ranked 159, knocked Gauff out in three sets in the second round in Paris.
Here are all the French Open singles results from Tuesday, Day 10 of the 2022 edition at Roland Garros (x denotes seeding)
Men singles quarterfinals
Rafael Nadal (ESP x5) bt Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4)
Alexander Zverev (GER x3) bt Carlos Alcaraz (ESP x6) 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (9/7)
Women singles quarterfinals
Martina Trevisan (ITA) bt Leylah Fernandez (CAN x17) 6-2, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3
Coco Gauff (USA x18) bt Sloane Stephens (USA) 7-5, 6-2