The world number one wins 3-6 6-3 7-6 6-2 at the end of over 4 hours of absolute battle
Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic are 35 and 34 years old but they still have the magic of eternal, infinite, interminable champions. That their semifinal would be ‘the’ match of the tournament, an early final, was clear to everyone. But no one would have imagined that the two, at the 58th challenge in their career, would have managed to pull off another legendary game like last night’s one at Roland Garros. A match of incredible intensity, punctuated by some mistakes – see the open field volley that Nadal sent on the net in the third set tie-break, compromising the rest of the game – but so full of shots unthinkable for anyone, except perhaps that for Federer, on the verge of inhuman, who deserves to enter the gallery of the greatest matches ever played at Roland Garros.
And in fact even the government has surrendered to the extraordinary nature of the occasion, allowing the public to remain in the stands well beyond the curfew time, which in Paris is still set at 11pm.
“Definitely the best atmosphere, the best match I’ve played at Roland-Garros center in my career, and against my biggest rival,” says Novak Djokovic, the world number one, 5 minutes from midnight, after winning 3-6 6-3 7-6 6-2 at the end of over 4 hours of absolute battle. “There was electricity in the air right from the start, the public supported both of them. It was one of those games you remember forever, definitely one of the best three of my life. I am obviously very happy at the moment, very happy, very satisfied with how I played especially in the crucial moments. Beating Rafa at Roland-Garros: we all know how difficult it is, and this is what makes tonight’s match even greater ».
Nadal saw the chance to win for the 14th time in Paris fade, and to detach Federer by winning the 21st Grand Slam. For him it is just the third defeat in 17 participations – the last one had always come against Djokovic, always in the semifinals, in 2016 – against 105 victories.
“You can’t win a tournament for life”, plays down the world number 3. This is sport. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I tried to do my best. It probably wasn’t my best day. I fought, I gave it my all, but my shots weren’t as effective tonight. After all, if you can’t move a player like Novak, who hits everything early, it becomes difficult. I had the big chance of a set point, 6-5 and second serve, then I made a double fault, and missed an easy volley in the tiebreak. But it’s true that we played really crazy points ».
And Rafa, in the end, left the field accompanied by an extraordinary ovation. “Yes, I can’t describe the emotions, but the atmosphere was certainly fantastic. There were moments when I felt fatigue, but it was the audience that held me up, I will never forget it ».
Today at 3 pm (tv on Eurosport) the women’s final between Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Krejcikova, tomorrow the men’s final between Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 22-year-old Greek is in the first final of a Grand Slam, the Serbian champion can conquer his 19th major and become the third player in history to win all four major tournaments at least twice after Rod Laver and Roy Emerson.
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