Christmas or the permanent miracle

The 59th episode was suspended until after one in the morning: after another memorable duel, Rafael Nadal challenged the logic against Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of Roland-Garros on Tuesday evening.

For a place in the final, he will face world number 3 Alexander Zverev, who defeated the Spanish phenomenon Carlos Alcaraz.

Even with a preparation far from ideal, Nadal, like at home on Parisian clay where he triumphed thirteen times, had promised to “try it with all his might.”

He clung to his profession of faith until the night of Tuesday to Wednesday to bite the dust in the world No.1 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) in 4h12 min. Not without discarding two balls from the fifth set.

A fatigue fracture in a rib two months before Roland-Garros? An ocher season released later than ever?

Once again ten days before the Paris Grand Slam when his left foot, devoured by a disease he describes as “chronic and incurable” since the age of 18, betrayed him again? A nearly four-and-a-half-hour fight in five rounds 48 hours before attacking Djokovic?

Nothing is ever impossible for the Mallorcan champion with a thousand injuries and a thousand and one rebirths, who will celebrate his 36th birthday on Friday.

How do you measure this 59th face-off between the two giants who have maintained for sixteen years the rivalry that has become the most prolific in men’s tennis?

– End of series for Alcaraz –

This is the first match between two players at the head of a collection of at least 20 Grand Slam trophies (21 for Christmas, 20 for Djokovic). The first also between two players who have accumulated over their exceptional career more than 1000 victories on the circuit and more than 300 in Grand Slam.

For a time, for almost an hour and a half, Nadal, the whole stadium or almost won his cause, went it alone: ​​until he led the double break by 6-2, 3-0, he recited the his tennis like in a dream.

Djokovic obviously recovered, and a 6-1 later inflicted on “Rafa” later, both players were the first set everywhere.

Still very determined despite the passage of time, the Spaniard returned to the battle as if nothing had happened. After three hours of play, he was the one to advance, two sets to one.

But even after midnight, even after three hours of play, even back on the wall, “Nole” didn’t give up. In 5 games to 4, he went twice to a point from a fifth inning. In vain.

Because no one has as hard a head as the Mallorcan left, who finally won the decisive match.

Djokovic will not join Christmas in the number of Grand Slam crowns at the end of this edition of Roland-Garros 2022. “Rafa” even has a chance to escape the lead.

Earlier, Alcaraz’s dream of winning a first Grand Slam trophy just two months after turning 19 disappeared.

Presented as a serious contender for the trophy after his resounding spring – an ambition taken on by the young Spaniard, now number 6 in the world at 19 – he was stopped by Zverev, winner by 6-4, 6-4, 4-6 , 7 -6 (9/7) after not converting a fifth-set ball to the tie-break.

From Barcelona to Paris, passing through Madrid, the young Murcian remained in a series of fourteen games won in a row.

– First by Gauff –

But Zverev, helpless in early May in the final of the Spanish capital (6-3, 6-1) in the face of the fury of Alcaraz, took revenge on the beaten earth in Paris.

“I told him I would win this tournament not once, but many times. I hope I can win it before it starts to beat us all and we have no chance,” joked the 25-year-old German, still in the research. of a first Grand Slam title.

However, Zverev did not avoid some scares: first when he was very feverish – two second balls at 119 km / h and 133 km / h punished with two winning returns – and was uninterrupted when he knew for the game with a 5-4. , then when Alcaraz got a ball from fifth set to 6 points to 5 in the deciding match.

“I overcame it,” said the tall German (1.98m), already a semi-finalist in Paris a year ago.

In the women’s draw, the American Coco Gauff, promised from adolescence to a great future, was invited for the first time to the semifinals of a major tournament, at the age of 18, at the expense of her compatriot Sloane Stephens (64a) 7-5, 6-2.

Like Italian Martina Trevisan, 59th in the world at 28, she fell 6-2, 6-7 (7/3), 6-3 to Canadian Leylah Fernandez (18th).

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