By Ricky Dimon
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both won their semifinal matches at the French Open on Wednesday. They both won in four sets, too.
But that is just about where the similarities end.
Let’s start with Nadal, who was facing Diego Schwartzman during the afternoon session. Although Schwartzman ended Nadal’s Roland Garros set streak at 36, for the most part it was domination by the King of Clay. Answering the wakeup call with the match tied at a set apiece and trailing 4-3 in the third, Nadal reeled off three straight games to regain the upper hand.
Off to the the races at that stage, the 13-time champion won 30 of the match’s last 35 points.
been in a tricky situation, 4-3 for him in the third set, one set all,” Nadal
admitted. “[That] was the moment to calm myself, to think about the things that
I was doing well in practices, just to try to make it happen. That was the
moment to make it happen because was a tough, tough moment. I’m very proud that
in that moment probably the best level of tennis that I had I showed up [from]
4-3 against until the end of the match — with not many mistakes, hitting a lot
of winners, starting to hit the forehand down the line, playing more angles,
playing longer with my forehand cross, returning a little bit better. I think
started to work better in that third set.
it’s normal. I mean, I don’t pretend to come here and not losing sets. Is not
my mindset come here and just thinking [that losing] a set going to be a
disaster for me. That’s part of the game. We are facing the best players of the
sets is something I accepted during all my tennis career. The thing that
matters is how you recover from a set lost.”
Djokovic also recovered from losing a set, but it was far less convincing and in much different circumstances. Playing in a “Davis Cup-like” atmosphere in the first and only night session of the tournament that had fans, the world No. 1 prevailed 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 in a spirited affair with Matteo Berrettini.
Blasting forehands left and right and connecting with most of them, Berrettini threw everything he had at Djokovic over the final two sets. A crowd of 5,000 witnessed most of it, but the fans were forced to leave Court Philipp-Chatrier following the seventh game of the fourth set because of the 11:00 pm French curfew.
After the players left the court for about 10 minutes, Berrettini came back out and produced clutch holds at 3-4 and 4-5. At 5-6, however, the Italian buckled under the pressure. He failed to convert one game point that would have forced another tiebreaker before Djokovic eventually capitalized on his third match point.
thought the atmosphere was Davis Cup-like, to be honest,” the Serb said. “It
was a lot of fans involved, every single point cheering, screaming. Just
electric atmosphere out there. Yeah, I’m happy that I had that experience of
playing in front of the crowd in the night session…. The crowd lifted him up.
He was playing some really powerful tennis. Especially in the third and fourth
he served tremendously strong and precise. It was just very difficult to read
his serve and play someone like him.
“I didn’t mind actually leaving the court because I felt like I needed a little bit of a break and reset. Yeah, it’s unfortunate for the tournament, for the crowd, to have that curfew. But we knew it before the match. Referee came up to us and said, ‘If it comes close to 11:00, we’ll have to empty the stadium.’ That’s what happened.”
Nadal stayed calm and collected in the face of adversity, Djokovic’s
frustration over failing to pull away from Berrettini reached a breaking point
late in the fourth set. He kicked the sideboard after missing one match point, an
outburst that preceded a wild victory celebration.
result of an entertaining day of quarterfinal action is another showdown
between Nadal and Djokovic. It will be a rematch of last year’s French Open,
won by the Spaniard in straight sets.
contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The
Grandstand. You can follow
him on twitter at @Dimonator.
Editors Note • we are going with Rafa in Five. Four possibly. But Rafa for the win 🏆