Just days away from his 36th birthday, Rafael Nadal is still capable of playing at a high level, despite all the setbacks with injuries. The Spaniard had a perfect start to the season before suffering a rib injury that prevented him from competing in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.
Nadal only managed four victories in Madrid and Rome, and his foot problems did not look good for Roland Garros. Seeking the 14th title in his beloved Major, Rafa stopped the clock and defeated five rivals to advance to the 15th semi-final in Paris.
Nadal edged out Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round and set up a historic clash against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Rafa defeated Novak 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 on Court Philippe-Chatrier in the night session to advance to the semi-final and continue on his way to the title.
Greg Rusedski praised Nadal and his efforts a couple of days after his 36th birthday, calling the Spaniard's career remarkable. Rafa needed four hours and 12 minutes to beat Novak in another classic. It was Nadal's 29th win over Djokovic in 59 meetings and his 20th win over the biggest rival on clay.
Rafa avenged last year's Roland Garros loss to Novak and set the semi-final clash against Alexander Zverev on Friday. Nadal kept the second serve safe and defended eight of 12 break chances. The Spaniard claimed 43% of return points and converted them in seven breaks from 17 chances.
Djokovic wants to win Wimbledon
Former ATP player Jimmy Arias is of the opinion that Novak Djokovic is starting to crack under the pressure of making history. "I think Novak [Djokovic] is cracking a little bit. It started with the US Open last year, I know he made the finals, but that whole tournament he was cracking.
It shows how much he is thinking about history," Arias said. "The only reason he was cracking was because he was thinking of the Calendar Grand Slam and if you remember that tournament, he was losing the first set every match.
But I did think Nadal was going to win that match after I saw that he was physically very good because there was this weird pressure on Djokovic that he had to catch Nadal [in the Slam race]," Arias said. "He had the chance at the US Open last year to break away from the pack and be the GOAT.
Nadal has done a better job of not having those thoughts. I feel like he plays each match to play that match and there is no other outside influence and that's helpful in those huge moments."