Analysis: Can Djokovic v. Nadal, Part 59, be the last?

PARIS (AP) – This French Open is the first Grand Slam tournament of the year in which Novak Djokovic and …

PARIS (AP) – This French Open is the first Grand Slam tournament of the year to feature Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. And anyone who loves men’s tennis – or, indeed, sports – should be thrilled that these two game titans will meet each other for a record 59th time.

Is it a pity that Tuesday night’s match is “only” a quarterfinal, not something bigger? Probably. Will it dissuade anyone from watching from afar or muffle the atmosphere surrounding Philip Shatrie’s trial? Doubtful.

Can this reduce the intensity of each player’s performance? No way.

“I’m ready for that,” Djokovic said.

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

So then the question that Nadal will have in mind – and we know this because he said so – and Djokovic may also be: how many more of these showdowns will there be?

First of all, Nadal turns 36 on Friday; Djokovic turned 35 on May 22, the first day of the French Open.

“I don’t know what might happen to my career any time soon,” Nadal said.

His body has been a big problem for the last 12 months. He missed the last half of last season, including Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, due to chronic pain in his left leg, which has intensified again in recent weeks. After a 20-0 start in 2022, he missed three tournaments due to a rib injury.

“I can’t complain,” Nadal said, noting that 2.2 weeks ago he didn’t know if he would get that far.

“Honestly, every match I play here, I don’t know if it will be my last match at Roland Garros. … This is my situation now, ”he said, beating 21-year-old Felix Aje-Alasim in five sets on Sunday night. “So I’m just trying to have as much fun as possible.”

Ager-Alyasim said Nadal did not seem to interfere or slow down during their fourth-round thriller, which lasted nearly 4.5 hours, almost twice as long as Djokovic’s victory in a row on Sunday over 15th seeded Diego Schwartzman.

Djokovic did not miss a set in four matches.

“He’s Novak,” said Schwartzman, “and if you’re not 100%… obviously, the result is this.”

As for Djokovic, his decision not to vaccinate against COVID-19 did not allow him to take part in the Australian Open, and although he was assured that at Wimbledon, when he starts on June 27, his status at the US Open is uncertain at this time. moment.

Whether statistical, aesthetic or other measures are applied, both are some of the greatest that have ever been. There can be no dispute about that.

Both have won each Grand Slam tournament at least twice. Nadal has a record 21 titles at the men’s helmet championships, reaching that number by winning a tie-break at the Australian Open in January. Djokovic, like Roger Federer, is one behind. Djokovic has a variety of other good faiths, including more weeks spent at No. 1 in the ATP rankings than anyone else, and the only person to have won at least two trophies from each Masters competition. He also leads Federer and Nadal one on one.

Djokovic and Nadal have played each other more often than any other male couple in half a century in professional tennis. Djokovic leads with a total score of 30-28; Nadal leads with a score of 19-8 on the ground, including 7-2 at Roland Garros. Nadal in the French Open is 109-3, a record 13 championships, and two of those three defeats brought Djokovic, including in the semifinals a year ago on the way to the title.

“Playing with him at Roland Garros is always a physical struggle,” said Djokovic, “along with everything else.”

It’s such a big deal that was scheduled for the night session, although Nadal has made it clear that she prefers to play daytime matches on the ground, and it has become available for free to everyone in France through a streaming service by special arrangement.

The winner will meet the third seed Alexander Zverev or the sixth Carlos Alcaras in the semifinals. The other men’s quarterfinals: Andrei Rublev at number 7 against 20 Marin Cilic and at number 8 Casper Ruud against unsown Holger Rune.

Alcaras, a 19-year-old Spaniard who is considered the next big deal in men’s tennis, knows a significant match when he sees him go.

“If I can,” Alcaras said of Djokovic against Nadal, “I will watch him.”

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Howard Fendrich has been the AP’s top tennis author since 2002. Email him at hfendrich@ap.org or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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