French Open clash between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will be 59th and possibly last

PARIS — The Roland Garros is the first Grand Slam tournament in a year, with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in attendance. Anyone who loves men’s tennis — or indeed the sport — should be thrilled that the two tennis giants will meet for a record 59th time.

Is it a shame that Tuesday night’s game was “just” the quarterfinals and not something more dangerous? Maybe. Will this prevent anyone from watching from a distance or dull the atmosphere that will surround the court of Philippe Chatelier? suspect.

Will it reduce the performance intensity of each player? Not an opportunity.

“I’m ready,” Djokovic said.

“I hope to give myself a chance to play at the highest level possible and then let’s see,” Nadal said.

So the question on Nadal’s mind – we know, because he said so – could also be Djokovic: How many more showdowns like this will there be?

First, Nadal will turn 36 on Friday; Djokovic will turn 35 on May 22, the first day of the French Open.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with my career in the near future,” Nadal said.

His body has been a big problem for the past 12 months. He missed the second half of last season, including Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, as chronic pain in his left foot has flared up again in recent weeks. After a 20-0 start into 2022, he has missed three games with a rib injury.

“I can’t complain too much,” Nadal said, noting that 2 1/2 weeks ago he didn’t know if he could do it.

“Honestly, every game I play here, I don’t know if it’s going to be my last match at the French Open. … That’s where I’m at,” he said on Sunday night. said after beating 21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime in five sets. “That’s why I just want to enjoy it as much as possible.”

Auger-Aliassime said Nadal didn’t appear to be held back or slowed down in any way in their fourth-round thriller, which lasted nearly 4.5 hours and nearly ended with Djokovic’s straight-set win of 15 on Sunday. No. 2 seed Diego Schwartzman.

Djokovic has not dropped a set in four matches.

“He’s Novak,” Schwarzman said, “if you’re not 100 percent…obviously, that’s what it turned out to be.”

As for Djokovic, his decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 prevented him from competing in the Australian Open, and while he is sure there will be no problem at Wimbledon, which starts on June 27, he is in the U.S. Open. The state of the game is currently uncertain.

Whether applying statistics, aesthetics, or any other measure, both are the greatest ever. Can’t argue about this.

Both have won majors at least twice. Nadal holds a record 21 Grand Slam titles, which he achieved with a tie-break at the Australian Open in January. Djokovic is as behind as Roger Federer. Djokovic has plenty of other virtues, including spending more time at No. 1 in the ATP rankings than anyone else, and being the only man to win at least two trophies in every Masters tournament. He also led Federer and Nadal head-to-head.

In more than half a century of professional tennis, Djokovic and Nadal have played each other more often than anyone else. Djokovic leads 30-28 overall; Nadal leads 19-8 on clay, including a 7-2 lead at the French Open. Nadal has a record 13 titles with a 109-3 record at the French Open, and two of those three losses came against Djokovic, including the semifinals a year ago.

“Playing him at the French Open is always a physical battle,” Djokovic said, “and everything else.”

It was a game so important that it was scheduled to be played at night, although Nadal made it clear that he preferred the daytime game on clay, and it was made available for free to all in France on a special arrangement via a streaming service.

Whoever wins will face third-seeded Alexander Zverev or sixth-seeded Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals. The other men’s quarter-finals were No. 7 Andrei Rublev against No. 20 Marin Cilic, and No. 8 Kasper Luther against unseeded Holger Ruen.

The 19-year-old Spaniard Alcalás is considered the next big thing in men’s tennis and he knows a big game when he sees it coming.

“If I can,” Alcaraz said of Djokovic versus Nadal, “I’ll watch it.”

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