The 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal is through to his 15th semi-final at a beloved Major following a historic night on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Rafa took down world no. 1 and the defending champion Novak Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 in four hours and 12 minutes for his 37th Major semi-final.
Rafa took down Novak for the 29th time in 59 encounters and scored the 20th victory over the greatest rival on clay and eighth at Roland Garros from ten clashes. Thus, the Spaniard avenged the last year's semi-final loss to the Serb and earned a chance to fight for the 22nd Major title in the rest of the tournament.
Despite the cold, heavy and slow conditions on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Nadal produced his A-game to beat Djokovic after another marathon that will stay in the tennis fans' memory for a long time. Novak recovered in the second set and threw everything he had at Rafa in the fourth, only to miss a set point and drop a tie break.
Rafael Nadal overpowered Novak Djokovic for his 15th Roland Garros semi-final.
If Alexander Zverev wins the title, he will become a new world no. 1 after Roland Garros, as Djokovic loses too many points. Rafa made the difference with his second serve, keeping it safe and overpowering Novak in the pivotal moments.
Nadal saved eight out of 12 break chances and turned 43% of the return points into seven breaks from 17 opportunities. The Spaniard dictated the pace with 57 winners and 43 unforced errors, leaving the Serb on a 48-53 ratio.
Unlike 12 months ago, Rafa had a massive advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes. He overpowered Novak in the most extended exchanges to seal the deal in four sets and preserve some energy for the semi-final clash.
Nadal was off to a flying start, placing his down the line strokes and spreading Djokovic over the baseline. Rafa broke in games one and five to open a 4-1 lead and sealed the opener with a comfortable hold in game eight for 6-2 in a challenging 50 minutes.
The second set turned into an open war that lasted almost an hour and a half! Nadal seized two early breaks for a 3-0 advantage before dropping six of the next seven games and bringing Djokovic back to the scoreboard. Novak found his forehand and started to dictate the pace to perform a comeback and secure the set in the tenth game for a massive boost.
Starting all over, Rafa restored the order in set number three, taming his strokes nicely and producing a double break to win it 6-2 and move closer to the finish line. With no room for errors, Novak rattled off four impressive holds and grabbed an early break to open a 5-2 gap in set number four and announce a decider.
He squandered two set points at 5-3, and those mistakes would prove very costly. Rafa broke back with a forehand crosscourt winner, and they both served well in the remaining three games to introduce a tie break. Djokovic failed to find his range, and he fell 6-1 down after a loose drop shot.
The Serb saved three match points before the Spaniard seized the fourth with a backhand down the line winner at 6-4 for a massive celebration.