“Merci, merci and merci”.
This is how the evening ends, a night that Rafael Nadal will hardly forget. There are already a few in Paris, but this one has a special meaning. In the final photo he doesn’t nibble on any trophies, but Chatrier has shown him unconditional support. When choosing, the public has been clear: whether day or night, indoors or outdoors, in autumn or spring or whatever the circumstance, no matter how terminal it may seem, Nadal is Nadal. The champion of 21 majors has surrendered to Novak Djokovic (6-2, 4-6, 6-2 and 7-6 (4), after 4h 11m) and to the wish of former player Marion Bartoli, today an interviewer, that he play many more times in the plant, he reacts with a smile.
“A magical night. Against Djokovic, one of the best in history, it is always very difficult and you can only play at your highest level. And I can only say: ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ to all the stands. You know how special this tournament is for me, the most important of my career and what I felt today is incredible”, he says excitedly, at 01:25 in the morning, having previously updated the history with the current number one (30-29 ) and certified the appointment in the semifinals on Friday with the German Alexander Zverev, executioner in the afternoon of the Murcian Carlos Alcaraz.
True to tradition, Nadal and Djokovic delivered another one of their magnetic swing drills. There is no rivalry more fierce or fluctuating than theirs, the matches coming and going, Karpóv against Kasparóv. With both on the track, any script blows up. Everything is a mirage. The logic of illogic. They know each other like nobody else, but they still hide secrets, aces up their sleeves everywhere and what seems to be going one way ends up flowing the other. Now you, now me. Now both. Two strategists from book to book, or the art of machination. To decipher hieroglyphs on the go. This is how the giants spend them. a delight
From a physical point of view, not psychological, Nadal was not interested in a long-distance night, so he charged with everything and looked for the fast Serb’s chin. In a stampede, the Spaniard won the first set and opened the gap in the second with an exuberant, top-level offense, surely recalling the sweeping takeoff of the 2020 final. That was the way. The only. Aggressiveness or aggressiveness, without mediocrity; against Djokovic, any hesitation or giving up a couple of meters of court is an involuntary leap into the void. So he took off like a rocket, highly tuned, and tried to strangle the Serb with that burst. He was the story to ask for. Or so it seemed. But…
Raquetazos, disaffections and subsistences
Again, a trompe l’oeil. Nole took out his survival booklet and compass, dictating back and forth. Sophisticated erosion, that unique zigzagging in the distribution and the central -overflowing, 14,800 attendees in the chairs- warming up to the cry of “Ra-fa, Ra-fa, Ra-fa!”. You know: it could be the king’s last ball in Paris. Time will tell. In any case, those kinds of things hurt Djokovic as much as they stimulate him. There is no better gasoline for him than the disaffected and the more support Nadal received, the more he raised the game. So in a seen and not seen, from the set against and the 3-0 of the second partial to the balance. The Serbian has a thousand lives. The same or more the Balearic.
Meanwhile, two internal battles. Nadal clenched his teeth and sharpened his gaze, once again urging himself to regain his place and move forward; on the other side, Djokovic howled as he took his seat, knotted himself up at the restart, then skidded. He gave up the service as soon as the third round began and he cursed, snorted and exploded: racket hit the net and an endless Boouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu from the Parisian stands. The reproach was accompanied by the second thrust of the Mallorcan, and between the coming and going and the give and take, insultingly discussed and long games, up to 18 minutes one of them, several of a quarter of an hour.
What has been said: in the Nadal-Djokovic, many games are played within the same game. A point is a life, a point a world. There is no respite or respite. Dose and more dose of adrenaline.
And in those, Nole was losing color while Nadal was gaining more and more light, gradually tipping the balance with that Martian ability to survive and find solutions. It is made of another paste. There is no tennis player who can undo emergency situations with such mastery or who overcomes adversity with such poise. Stroke by stroke and ball by ball, he scored the fourth set – from 2-5 down to the double break and the lace in the tie-breaker– and returned to recover the hierarchy in Paris, his home, his Eden. Whether by night or by day, Nadal is Nadal. “I’ll see you in a couple of days, by the way…”, he said goodbye emotionally while the Chatrier entertained him. Here’s to many more dances.