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French Open: Novak Djokovic prepares to give Rafael Nadal a hammer blow

Novak Djokovic renews his epic 16-year rivalry with Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros on Tuesday with a semi-final spot on the line and where victory could end the 13-time Roland Garros champion’s career. Nadal, who turns 36 on Friday, puts his record of 109 wins and only three losses in Paris, since his title debut in 2005, against the defending champion.

The Spaniard was taken down in five sets for only the third time in his tournament history by 21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round.

Immediately after that victory, Nadal admitted that not only this year’s French Open was at stake for him, but possibly his whole future as a player.

“I know my situation and I accept it. I can’t complain too much,” said Nadal, who arrived in Paris not knowing if he could participate after suffering a recurrence in Rome of a chronic foot injury. who tormented him. for much of his career.

“I just appreciate the fact that I’m here for one more year. And to be honest, every game I play here, I don’t know if it will be my last at Roland Garros.

“I went through a difficult process again with my foot, so I don’t know what may happen in the near future.”

Overall, Djokovic has led Nadal 30-28 since their first career encounter at the 2006 French Open.

Nadal has a 19-8 advantage on clay and has won seven of the duo’s nine meetings in Paris.

Djokovic, however, emerged victorious in the 2021 Roland Garros semi-finals en route to a second title.

Nocturnal fears

This defeat had a physical impact on Nadal who then skipped Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open.

With Djokovic expelled from Melbourne on the eve of the Australian Open, Nadal seized the opportunity to claim a record 21st Grand Slam title, breaking a tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer.

The two men are playing in the quarter-finals of Roland Garros for the 16th time.

Djokovic easily reached the quarter-finals and won 22 consecutive sets, a streak dating back to his triumph at the Italian Open in Rome.

Adding an additional twist to the clash is a battle of wills over planning.

Nadal insists he doesn’t want to play the game at night.

His compatriot, Carlos Alcaraz, 19, who faces Alexander Zverev also on Tuesday, said it would be “unfair” if he had to play after 9pm for the third time.

Nadal and Djokovic played one game each after dark.

“I don’t like playing on clay at night because the humidity is higher, the ball is slower and there can be very difficult conditions, especially when it’s cold,” Nadal said.

Djokovic hinted that he would prefer to face Nadal as late as possible.

“All I will say is Rafa and I would make different demands,” he said.

“I’m glad I didn’t spend too much time on the court until the quarter-finals, knowing that playing it at Roland Garros is always a physical battle. It’s a huge challenge and probably the biggest one you can have. . here.”

Alcaraz show

Alcaraz is the youngest man to make the last quarter in Paris since Djokovic in 2006.

He owns a record of 20 wins on clay in 2022 against just one loss. For the year, he is 32-3.

The sixth seed had to save a match point to defeat compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round, but was otherwise relieved by the expectations hanging over him.

Alcaraz is taking on third-seeded Zverev after beating the German in the Madrid Masters final where he also knocked out Nadal and Djokovic.

Zverev, who is trying to reach the semi-finals for a second consecutive year, is also ignoring the night conditions.

“I don’t mind evening sessions when it’s 30 degrees during the day,” the 25-year-old said.

“When it’s 14 degrees, so in the night it’s going to be what, 8, 9, something like that, it gets difficult.

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“My serve is going to be even slower, my forehand is going to be even slower. It won’t be easy for me to play at 9:30 at night with no sun, no heat and 8 degrees.”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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