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Nadal Advances to French Open Semifinals After Defeating Djokovic

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However the mood has shifted in recent seasons. There’s now a statue of Nadal near the doorway of the stadium complex, and throughout Tuesday evening there have been chants of “Rafa” whilst Djokovic prepared to serve at critical phases.

“I believe probably they know that I’m not going to be here quite a bit more times,” Nadal said.

It was Djokovic who didn’t get the prospect to play on this 12 months’s Australian Open. He was deported on the eve of the competition after a standoff with the Australian government over his being unvaccinated against Covid-19. But he arrived in Paris and at Tuesday’s match in additional convincing form than Nadal, who’s no doubt the best men’s clay-court player in history but was very short on matches on the surface this 12 months.

“Yes, I used to be surprised by my level tonight,” Nadal said. “But in a way it makes it simpler when you realize that you just either need your A game otherwise you’re going home.”

Nadal injured his ribs on the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., in March, losing the ultimate to the American Taylor Fritz while twiddling with a stress fracture. He missed a lot of the early clay-court season and only returned for the Madrid Open in mid-May, when he was upset by his 19-year-old Spaniard compatriot, Carlos Alcaraz, within the quarterfinals.

Then got here the Italian Open, his only other clay-court event before Roland Garros, where Nadal was beaten in three sets by Denis Shapovalov of Canada in a round-of-16 night match in Rome by which he hobbled to the finish, grimacing in pain as his chronic left foot condition resurfaced. He was downbeat after that defeat but didn’t rule out playing within the French Open and arrived in Paris seeded fifth and, unlike in Rome, together with his longtime physician, Angel Ruiz-Cotorro.

“Having the doctor here you may do things that help,” said Nadal, declining to enter detail on his treatment while continuing to suggest that this could possibly be his final appearance at Roland Garros. “I’m putting every part that I actually have to attempt to play this tournament with the very best conditions possible, no? I don’t know what can occur after, truthfully, but here I believe I’m going to be high-quality.”

As so often, Nadal has proved capable of play and prevail through the pain. He fought to a five-set victory within the fourth round over the 21-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, then took on the top-seeded Djokovic for the 59th time on tour and the tenth time at Roland Garros.

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