TENNIS – A scintillating French Open semi-final between Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic ended in defeat for the Spaniard. If Nadal had gone on to win his 14th Roland Garros title, he would have moved ahead of Federer in Grand Slam title wins.
The defending champion suffered just his third loss at Roland Garros. Though, as ever, Nadal was a gentleman in defeat, saying Novak Djokovic was a worthy winner.
Philosophical in defeat
The 13-time champion had a set point in the third set but could not convert. This put Djokovic up 2 sets to 1. And as Nadal tired in the fourth set, Djokovic pulled away to win 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2.
Djokovic will now play Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final on Sunday 13th June.
“No doubt he deserved to win,” said Nadal, who beat Djokovic in last year’s final. “Probably was not my best day out there. Even if I [fought] and I put a lot of effort, the position on the shots has not been that effective tonight. Against a player like him that takes the ball early, you are not able to take him out of his positions, then is very difficult.”
“My opportunities to win here are not eternal,” he told the Spanish press. “In our sport, you must admit both victory and defeat. I do know that I can’t win the tournament 15, 18, 20 times. It’s not a disaster at all.
“I’m sad, I lost at the most important tournament of the year for me. But it’s just a defeat on a tennis court you know, and tomorrow I’ll be at home with my family. That’s OK.”
First three sets were magical
As the match was under way, current and ex-professional tennis players were praising the level of tennis.
The quality brought an incredulous reaction from British former world number one Andy Murray on Twitter. “You cannot play better tennis than this. It’s perfect.”
Former world number one and Grand Slam champion Andy Roddick tweeted, “To this point, it’s one of the best matches I’ve ever seen.”
Conditions better suited to Djokovic
The night match with its cooler conditions were a bonus for the Serbian player. And as the match entered the fourth hour, Nadal started to tire. This allowed Djokovic to take the fourth set and the match.
Nadal conceded the conditions were better suited to Djokovic’s game.
“Is true that probably the conditions were a little bit slower later on,” explained the 35-year-old. “We had been playing with very warm and high bounces. During the night the situation goes a little bit the other way, so it bounces a little bit less. The ball gets less topspin. That’s more favourable for him.
“Doesn’t matter. That’s tennis. The player who gets used to the conditions better is the player who deserves to win.”
Djokovic will meet world number 5, Tsitsipas on the Philippe-Chatrier Court no earlier than 3pm CET today.