Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal know there is something special about them meeting in the French Open semifinals – even if they would have preferred it to happen a round later.
“Every time we face each other, there is additional tension and expectations,” said top seed Djokovic. “Just the vibes are different walking the court with him.”
Third seed Nadal’s take?
“Somehow,” he said, “we are practicing, we are living the game, for these moments.”
Whatever the quality of the game between Nadal and Djokovic in Paris on Friday – their semi-final will be between Greece’s No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas and Germany’s No. 6 Alexander Zverev – the numbers attached to the matchup are overwhelming.
Let’s start with the big picture: Nadal is two wins away from his 21st Grand Slam title, which will break the men’s mark he currently shares with Roger Federer.
Djokovic is trying to reach number 19, leaving him just one behind his rivals.
Nadal is 105-2 at Roland Garros – Djokovic is responsible for one of those losses in the 2015 quarter-finals; Robin Soderling is eyeing a second – and 14th – championship in the clay-court major.
Djokovic won La Coupe des Mosquiteres in 2016 and could join Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only man to have won each of the four Grand Slam tournaments twice.
“It is not like any other match. Let’s face it, this is the biggest challenge for you – playing against Nadal on clay on this court, which he has had so much success in his career,” said Djokovic. “In the final stages of a Grand Slam, it doesn’t get bigger than that.”
This is their 58th showdown, more than any other two men in the Open era, dating back to 1968; Djokovic leads 29-28.
Nadal leads 10-6 at Slam, 7-1 at the French Open (including a straight-set win in the 2020 final) and 19-7 on clay (including a win in last month’s Italian Open final).
It comes in the semi-finals rather than the final, as Nadal has recently slipped from No. 2 to No. 3 in the rankings. Tournament seeding strictly followed the rankings, so Nadal received no boost for his dominance in the place, and a random draw determined which bracket he was placed in.
“It’s going to be a special match,” said 10th seed Diego Schwartzman, who lost to Nadal in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, but not before the 36-set winning streak ended in Paris. wants.”
women’s last saturday No. 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will face No. 17 will be from Maria Sakkari or unseeded Barbora Krejcikova. The final four women were major semi-finalists for the first time.
Whatever happens on Friday, the men’s final will be Old vs New.
That’s because it would pit someone in his 30s who is one of the greatest of all time — Nadal, 35, or Djokovic, 34 — against someone in his 20s with a lot of potential but zero Grand Slam titles – Tsitsipas, 22, or Zverev, 24.
Tsitsipas vs Zverev offers a glimpse into what the future of men’s tennis could hold.
Both are all-court, all-surface players who are 6-foot-4 (1.93 m) or higher. And both have now become regulars in the later stages of large companies.
“Grand Slams, they’re still a different animal. … You have to learn to play them too. Very few people come and suddenly do their best at a Grand Slam. Yes, we’ve seen Rafa do it, but Rafa is sometimes not human,” Zverev said. “For young people, it’s a learning curve. Hopefully I can say this, slowly but surely, I’m starting to understand it.”
It is his third semi-final in the last five Slams, and he was runner-up to Dominic Thiem at last year’s US Open.
This is the third consecutive semi-final for Tsitsipas and the fourth major overall, leading 0–3 so far.
Tsitsipas said after finishing No. 2, “I feel like I’m in that position, and I think, obviously, I’ve put in a lot of daily hard work[that]has been a key element of me being here ” Seeded Daniil Medvedev in the quarterfinals. “But, you know, my ego tells me I need more.”
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