Tennis titans prepare for 59th and possibly final clash

This French Open is the first grand slam tournament in a year with both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in the field. And anyone into men’s tennis—or even sports—should be delighted to see these two titans of the game go head to head for a record 59th time.

Is it a shame that the match is “just” a quarter-final, rather than something where more is at stake? Perhaps. Will that stop anyone from watching from afar or dampen the atmosphere that will envelop Court Philippe Chatrier? Doubtful.

Could it reduce the intensity of each player’s performance? No chance.

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“I’m ready,” Djokovic said.

“I hope to give myself the opportunity to play at the highest possible level,” said Nadal, “and then we’ll see.”

So the question that will be on Nadal’s mind – and we know this because he said it – and Djokovic may be too, is: how many more of these confrontations will there be?

Watch Roland-Garros on 9Gem en 9Now or any match, ad-free, live and on demand with courses in 4K, on Stan Sports

First of all, Nadal turns 36 on Friday; Djokovic turned 35 on May 22, the first day of Roland-Garros.

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

His body has been a major problem for the past 12 months. He missed the latter half of last season, including Wimbledon and the US Open, due to chronic pain in his left foot that has flared up again in recent weeks. After his 20-0 start in 2022, he missed three tournaments due to a rib injury.

“I can’t complain much,” said Nadal, who noted that two and a half weeks ago he had no idea if he would make it that far.

“To be honest, every game I play here I don’t know if it will be my last game here at Roland Garros. That’s my situation now,” he said after putting 21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliasime in five .

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“That’s why I just try to enjoy it as much as possible.”

Auger-Aliassime said Nadal didn’t seem to be hindered or slowed down during their fourth-round thriller, which lasted nearly four and a half hours, nearly twice as long as Djokovic’s outright win over 15th-seeded Diego Schwartzman.

Djokovic has not dropped a set in four games.

“He’s Novak,” said Schwartzman, “and if you’re not 100 percent … of course the result is like this.”

As for Djokovic, his decision not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 prevented him from taking part in the Australian Open and while he has been assured that won’t be a problem at Wimbledon when it starts on June 27, his status is ahead of the curve. the US Open currently uncertain.

Watch Roland-Garros on 9Gem en 9Now or any match, ad-free, live and on demand with courses in 4K, on Stan Sports

Whether stats, aesthetics, or other measures are applied, both are among the best there’s ever been. There can be no discussion about that.

Both have won every grand slam tournament at least twice. Nadal holds a men’s record of 21 slam titles, a number he achieved with a decisive win at the Australian Open in January.

Djokovic, like Roger Federer, is falling behind. Djokovic has all kinds of other bona fides, including more weeks at No. 1 in the ATP rankings than anyone else and the only man to have at least two trophies from every Masters event. He also leads both Federer and Nadal head-to-head.

Djokovic and Nadal have played against each other more times than any other pair of men in more than half a century of professional tennis. Djokovic leads 30-28 overall; Nadal leads 19-8 on clay, of which 7-2 on Roland-Garros. Nadal is 109-3 at the French Open, with a record 13 championships, and two of those three losses came to Djokovic, including in the semi-final a year ago en route to the title.

“Playing against him in Roland-Garros is always a physical battle,” said Djokovic, “along with everything else.”

This is such a big deal that it was scheduled for the night session, although Nadal made it clear that he prefers playing matches on clay during the day, and it has been made available for free to anyone in France via a streaming service under a special arrangement. .

Watch Roland-Garros on 9Gem en 9Now or any match, ad-free, live and on demand with courses in 4K, on Stan Sports

The winner will face third-seeded Alexander Zverev or sixth-seeded Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals. The other men’s quarter-finals are No. 7 Andrey Rublev vs. No.20 Marin Cilic, and No.8 Casper Ruud vs. unseeded Holger Rune.

Alcaraz, the 19-year-old Spaniard who was considered the next big thing in men’s tennis, has an important match when he sees one coming.

“If I can,” Alcaraz said of Djokovic vs Nadal, “I’ll look into it.”

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