The dream French Open semifinal between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic is all set for late Friday afternoon.
The two legends of the game will meet for a 58th time with Djokovic holding the slight 29-28 edge.
Nadal advanced after pulling away from a determined Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 in a rematch of their 2020 semifinal in Paris. Nadal had his set-streak snapped at 36 when Schwartzman grabbed the second set to the road of the 5,000 fans in Chatrier.
Nadal didn’t take kindly throwing in a bagel in a fourth set he won 30-5 in points.
“I started badly in the second set, then I was able to come back,” said Nadal. “But at 4-4, returning with the wind, I played a bad game and hit a double fault in the next game. I needed to play more aggressively and I did so throughout the rest of the match. I won an important match today against a tough opponent. I was able to find a way to play my best tennis in the moments that I really needed to.”
Nadal now leads the Argentine 11-1 and he ups his current win streak at the event to 35 and he’s 105-2 overall at the event. And once Rafa reaches the semifinals, he’s a perfect 26-0 at Roland Garros.
Djokovic also dropped a set in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 win over the big-hitting Italian Matteo Berrettini. Djokovic dominated early blunting Berrettini’s power, but the big guy wouldn’t go away in the third. Then with Djokovic about to slam the door serving up 5-4 in third set breaker, Berrettini won three straight points to force a fourth.
The first night crowd of the week was well engaged despite the clock closing in on the 11pm curfew. At 10:45pm with the score 2-1, fans were asked to leave, but many didn’t. So on the next changeover at 3-2, players left the court so security could remove the many remaining fans. Once they left, play resumed about 20 minutes later.
Djokovic took a tumble falling on his hand which drew some blood. Otherwise, the two were crushing the ball. But at serving 5-6, Berrettini began to fade and an emotional Djokovic charged himself up and got it done to reach his 11th French Open semifinal.
“This match had it all: falls, crowd, break. It was a lot of intensity,” said Djokovic.
“I just felt under tension the entire time. I felt like I missed some of the chances to end the match in the third set. I didn’t want to give him too much opportunities to dictate the match. That’s why it was just super, super stressful to constantly be under pressure on my service games because his service games were quite smooth with the big serve.
“Yeah, the reaction in the end was just me liberating that tension that was building up for the entire match.”
Berrettini was the last of a great group of Italian men.
“I’m really proud of myself, really proud of my team, what we achieved,” Berrettini said. “I’m really happy, 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.”
Djokovic will now take a 9-match win streak into the semifinal against Rafa.
“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,” Djokovic said. “I’m confident. I believe I can win, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Let’s have a great battle.”
Nadal leads 19-7 over Djokovic on clay and 7-1 at the French Open.
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