Nadal defeats Djokovic ahead of aim at 14th Roland Garros title

Spaniard Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the French Open to move within two games of a 14th Roland Garros title.

On Tuesday night, he moved one step closer to winning his 14th-title in Paris with an epic four-set win over Novak Djokovic. The Spaniard defeated the world No.1 6-2, 4-6, 6-2,7-6(4) in an epic encounter that lasted for four hours.

When the draw was made and Nadal landed in Djokovic’s half, every tennis fan started looking forward to their meeting. The matches between the two always go the distance, and Tuesday’s clash was no different.

The drama started as early as the first game in the opening set, which took ten minutes before Nadal broke. The break set the tune for Nadal to take the opening set 6-2.

The second set followed a similar pattern, with Nadal going a double-break up to take a 3-0 lead. However, against the run of play, Djokovic levelled the game by breaking twice before breaking in the final game to take the second set 6-4.

The third set was similar to the first, with Nadal breaking twice before serving it out for a 6-2 victory. With pressure mounting on him, Djokovic raised his level, breaking Nadal in the opening game of the fourth set.

Both players held serve in subsequent games, leaving Djokovic to serve it out and take the match into a decider. However, Nadal showed great mental strength to break Djokovic.

The game then went into a tie-break after both players breezed through their next service games. The tie-break proved to be a masterclass from Nadal, who went 6-1 up.

Although Djokovic tried to mount a miraculous comeback, it was not enough as a Nadal forehand in the 11th game of the tie-break sealed an epic win for him.

Nadal shows strength in his pain

While Nadal’s win edges him closer to another history, this victory is more satisfying considering the challenges he had to overcome.

Nadal has shown great strength even in pain. As of last year, fans were unsure whether they would see Nadal on the court again after he went through a foot surgery.

The foot has been bothering him all through his career, but last year’s surgery appeared to be the end. However, Nadal is a fighting man and will not go away easily.

He returned to the tour in January, and against all odds, he won the Australian Open, making him the first man to win 21 grand slam titles. Nadal’s impressive start to the season continued in Mexico and Indian Wells, where he won the title and reached the final, respectively.

However, despite his perfect start to the season, there were doubts surrounding Nadal going into the clay-court season. He suffered a rib injury while he won no titles on clay heading into the French Open.

The 35-year-old suffered a semi-final defeat to Carlos Alcaraz at the Madrid Masters. Alcaraz, who is also Spanish, is seen as the heir to Nadal’s throne.

Nadal also lost at the Rome Masters to Denis Shapovalov in the round of 16. In the loss to Shapovalov, the lingering foot injury bothered Nadal, which led to doubts over his participation at Roland Garros.

Nadal did appear at Roland Garros, but he was not the favourite, with bookmakers favouring Djokovic and Alcaraz. Still, despite these challenges, he has managed to navigate his way to the semi-final, where he is only two games away from a 22nd grand slam title.

And he has achieved this remarkable feat by beating the world No 1 in the process. Nadal’s victory over Djokovic is even more impressive, considering he had been taken to five sets by Felix Augier-Aliassime in the previous round.

His willingness to fight to the end is admirable, but his ability to find strength in his pain is what makes him special. The foot problem is there, which could make this year be his last on the ATP tour.

But irrespective of whatever happens, Nadal has shown us that our greatest strength lies in our pain. And that’s one lesson every tennis fan should take from his career.

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