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Rafael Nadal wins sensational clash to dethrone defending French Open champ Novak Djokovic and close in on Slam No 22

RAFA NADAL sensationally dethroned Novak Djokovic as the French Open champion in a four-set chiller as he edged closer to an unprecedented Slam No 22.

It was gone 1am in Paris by the time these two sporting supermen laid down their rackets at the end of a pulsating quarter-final at Roland Garros played amid plunging temperatures.

Rafa Nadal won a thrilling battle to beat Novak Djokovic and reach the semi-final of the French Open

Nadal won a four-set thriller with the game ending after 1am local time

An emotional Nadal hailed the win as ‘magical’

Djokovic came up short despite a valiant effort

The titanic clash lasted more than four hours

Djokovic fought valiantly in a gruelling match played in freezing conditions

The decision to stage this match so late at night will be rightly debated and criticised but for now, a tired Nadal won’t care as he progressed to a semi-final against Alex Zverev on his favourite court on Friday.

Djokovic’s time as defending champion is over following Nadal’s extraordinary 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6 victory, which bizarrely began in the month of May but ended in June.

Nadal said: “It was an unbelievable match. Very emotional. It’s incredible for me to play here. Thank you to everyone

“It has been a very tough match, Novak is one of the best players in the history, it’s always an amazing challenger.



Roland Garros ERUPTS as Nadal beats Djokovic in gruelling quarter-final

“The only way to win is to play your best from the first point to your last. A magical night for me.

“There is no other place like this for me. It’s the important and special court of my career. I feel the love of everyone here in Paris. This place means everything to me.”

And the world No.1 will have to wait and see if Nadal, already the record 21-time Grand Slam champion, potentially adds another major to his Mallorca mansion on Sunday.

The 59th meeting between these icons – a record for the men’s game – was never going to be a short affair and ended up taking more than four hours.


The conventional wisdom was that Nadal, 35, would struggle against his greatest enemy because this contest had been scheduled for the controversial night-time slot.

A tennis ball travels slower in cooler conditions and it was felt Djokovic would have the upper hand in the long rallies on this chilly evening.

Indeed Nadal’s camp made a concerted effort to request that this encounter – their first meeting in 12 months – should be scheduled for the warm afternoon sunshine.

Though he lost that pre-match battle, Nadal raced out of the blocks immediately, breaking Djokovic’s serve in an opening game that lasted ten minutes.

Few would have predicted beforehand the Spaniard would cruise into a 5-1 lead and be in complete control, his wicked forehand dictating the play.

Djokovic smashes a forearm back to his Spanish rival

When he took the first set thanks to 12 sublime winners, the crowd were in raptures as the sun was setting over the French capital.

It was the first set Djokovic, 35, had dropped this tournament, breaking a 22-set winning streak that went back to the Italian Open in Rome.

As omens go, it was a decent one for the Nadal fans – and there were lots on Court Philippe-Chatrier – because the winner of the opening set had gone on to clinch 50 of the previous 58 matches.

Djokovic, though, has always been a fighter and despite falling 3-0 down in the second set, he responded as he always done with grit and determination to level up.

Nadal hits a backhand at Roland Garros

This was not the classic that we had all expected – there were far too many errors and double faults for that – but at times it was still high-quality stuff.

Empty seats started to appear more and more in a third set won comfortably by Nadal as punters raced for the last Metros while those in the corporate boxes required blankets to keep warm.

Tensions rose on the court as Djokovic banged the net with his racket in the fourth net and Nadal argued with the umpire over a contentious call.

Though Nadal fell 5-2 down and saved two set points in the fourth set, the No.5 seed got his mojo back to prevail in the tie-breaker and show why he is really the King of Clay.