Passionate celebration belongs to Novak Djokovic, Roland Garros finalist after coming back 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 to Rafael Nadal and become the first tennis player to knock the Spaniard down twice in the clay court tournament. On top of that, the victory leaves the Serbian in a privileged position: if he wins on Sunday at Stefanos Tsitsipas, Djokovic will close the gap with his closest rival in the race for the record for Grand Slam titles (18-20 right now). Before, a match for life, an example of eternal improvement and infinite sacrifice. King Nadal no longer plays in Paris. [Narración y estadísticas]
“Rafa! Rafa! Rafa! ”Sang the majority of the audience before the players left the locker room, taking part in the match. “Nole! Nole! Nole! ”The stands shouted half an hour later, seeing that Nadal was destroying the Serbian on the scoreboard (5-0) and that the battle desired by all could remain in a fight resolved by a KO in the first round, as in the 2020 final. The greatest explosion of joy, however, came after ten o’clock at night, when the organization announced that the French authorities had allowed the meeting to end with an audience (“Merci Macron!”, they recited chorus when knowing the decision before singing La Marseillaise), making an exception to ignore the curfew in force in France (at eleven o’clock) and thus allow people to stay until the end.
The most repeated rivalry of the Era Open (58 matches including Friday), one of the greatest spectacles in the world of sport, began with a first game in which everything happened, and that possibly conditioned what happened next: Djokovic made two balls of break, biting the rest from the start, Nadal saved them with a couple of good serves, committed a double fault and ended up leading his rival to miss a shot at pleasure, with the entire court open. Past experiences, painful memories, bleeding wounds. Letting that opportunity escape filled Nole’s head with doubts and propelled his rival towards a stretch of the unreal cross: the Mallorcan gave the number one a 5-0 partial, but it was far from being a beating because each point was heatedly discussed. .
For half an hour, Nadal played at an intensity from another planet. Leaning on his legs, the Spanish fulfilled the base that I had planned with his team to face Djokovic: play deep, shoot long, send the ball very close to the baseline. From that premise, the number three found himself comfortable to take command of the rallies and disarmed his opponent from the range, mixing the directions in his attacks (several drives very good parallels combined with other crusaders) to build meaningful points with a lot of skill.
Rather than letting go, the easy choice, the Serb decided to fight back, possibly to feed off that reaction in the second set. With everything against it, Djokovic won his first serve of the afternoon (1-5). He aborted two set balls from Nadal and broke his opponent’s serve (2-5). He overcame a third and held another earned duty shift (3-5). And he forced the Mallorcan to squeeze himself to win the first set, denying him another three set points (seven in total) before bowing the knee.
Then the crossing became even harder.
“Let’s go! Let’s go! ” Djokovic was encouraged with a clenched fist after opening with break the second set. “Come on!” Nadal replied after closing the gap immediately. With the match moving in a carousel of unleashed emotions, Nole clung to a stable version to level the duel and grew up on the confidence that hit the lines, unleashed on winning shots on the backhand side, and bet on the Same play: luring Nadal into the net with a drop and then making him run to the bottom with a balloon. The Balearic, who came with the lesson learned,
At three hours of the game, welcome to the jungle. With a set for each, Nadal reversed the trend escaping from a tricky situation: the Spanish broke Djokovic’s serve when his rival served to win the third set, which would have left one of the victory. He then had to save a ball from break to put the 6-5. It was a game full of tension who saw the Spaniard beat his chest looking at his bench and the Serbian cursing words in his language, his face contorted with concern as he saved a set point on the way to the tiebreaker that ruled by a millimeter of difference.
Physically at the limit, Nadal could not maintain the break with which he opened the fourth quarter and conceded four games in a row (from 0-2 to 4-2) that opened the doors of defeat. This is how Nole climbed to one of the most difficult challenges in his sport: to finish off the Spaniard at Roland Garros.