Paris pronounces: “We are not going to go! We are not leaving! We are not leaving! ”.
The French stands are expressed because the show is huge and the protocol tightens. It is half past ten, at eleven the Chatrier must be evacuated and there is a world to settle in an evening that marks a turning point in the history of tennis: Novak Djokovic, 18 majors, does it. Again. Rafael Nadal, 20, bows in the semifinals (3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) and 6-2) and the number one records the third defeat of the Spanish in the 108 games he has played in the tournament . Your tournament. Occurs after 4h 10m. The Serbian achieves what only he (quarters of 2015) and Swede Robin Soderling (eighth of 2009) have achieved: knock down the giant in his paradise, something close to the impossible. It takes him away from the title, the dream of surpassing the 20 greats of the Swiss Roger Federer vanishes and Nole is one step away, this Sunday against Stefanos Tsitsipas, of giving a blow to the great historical career of tennis.
And that from the beginning, Nadal’s message is unequivocal. There is no trap or cardboard, but a whole warning, a battle cry: attack with everything. He has the best of his artillery and corners Nole without letting him think, the Serbian pale while the fan rubs his eyes and their minds deceive, because in the central one lives a deja vu and the subconscious move to that recital in October. Then, number one took three slammed doors as soon as the duel started, and this time there are two. Nadal denies him the break with a couple of healing serves and immediately implements the plan; that is, dynamite. Electric storm.
As soon as he finds the first crack, the Spaniard signs the first break and chest out. To the second option, the second falls and Djokovic’s face is dislodged, a poem as Nadal’s racket is drawing effects and doing misdeeds. The Balearic is going with the lesson more than learned and, as his coach, Carlos Moyá, warned a day before, the one who had to move and try variants was the Balkan. From Kasparov to Karpov, you know. Two unparalleled strategists. However, Nole returns to the same naivety as then, taking refuge in the cave and trusting in the resource of the left as a solution to all evils.
The immobility costs him another jolt. Nadal recreates opening with the service and connecting on the next ball at the opposite angle, the home mark; open a hole with him drive parallel and when only twenty-five minutes have elapsed, he sends 4-0 and after half an hour he adds another game to his locker. Djokovic’s second serves are a treat. An extraordinary lode. Grogui, the one from Belgrade has a thick lump in his throat. “I-de-mo, i-de-mo, i-de-mo!”, four compatriots who proudly wear their shirts try to revive him from the stands, in front of a majority that opts for the Mallorcan.
The booster goes deep into Djokovic’s mind and acts like a cold morning shower. And there is reaction. The number one shakes the bishops and re-enters the game emotionally, making up the first set with a maneuver whose purpose goes far beyond avoiding the donut. Nole has returned. Nadal finds it difficult to put the tie, seven attempts until it closes. But the story has changed. The rebellion of the Serbian is a fact and the forces are balanced, blow goes and blow comes from both sides. Abandoning the timorous and fearful version, Djokovic experiments with changes of heights and rhythms, affecting the opponent’s backhand because there is oxygen there. There is a semifinal.
Nadal covers his domains with strides, but lacks finesse in his shots. He is not entirely comfortable. The king suffers. At each point, the Balkan tells him that whatever is necessary is going to be there and that what happened last year is last and there it is. New movie, another script. Melee and orgasmic rallies. That simple, that difficult: always put one more. The 5,000 spectators of the Chatrier make the wave and stand up when the Spaniard invents an implausible return from the trench, and also when the Serbian, ode to the two boarding, puts a millimeter balloon on the bottom line.
“Guy-For-get, di-mi-sión!”, The stands dedicates in unison to the tournament director because the time to leave is approaching, and there is an eternity left to be cut. Too much to give up. They are two out of series. By then, Djokovic has already equalized and in the third set, Nadal has removed the honey from his lips, aborting a 5-3 and 30-0 adverse, and later saving a set ball. But in full frenzy, the Serbian’s scalpel defines the tie-breaker. Six years ago, since 2015 against the same adversary, that of Manacor did not deliver two sets in Paris. It is time to go and the audience is clamoring. And the organization announces the exception over the public address system: today the curfew is bypassed at Rola Garros.
An eruption occurs in the Bois de Boulogne. The jubilation resounds and they both continue to charge, tackling each other without sparing a single bullet. Nole slows down when taking out, because the camera wiring spider it hisses and here you can even hear the ants passing by. The silence between point and point is brutal, crude and eloquent. Nadal signs the first pang and Djokovic responds, he is getting bigger and bigger, immense, while the Spaniard accuses a blister and changes his sock. The final demarraje arrives. It is for 4-2. It is almost eleven thirty at night, and the center demands more battle: “Rafa, Rafa, Rafa!” He breathes energy into the champion of 20 grand, but the reserve is depleted and he is touched. That last ball in the hall ditch the night between cheers for one and the other.
Nadal says goodbye, there will be revenge. “I will return with the enthusiasm and the necessary work,” he advances after Djokovic has managed to overcome the challenge of challenges: to beat him again in his fortress in the Chatrier. Pure tennis history.