It’s Djokovic vs. Nadal, the French Open Rematch We’ve Been Waiting For
As the kids like to say these days, it’s on.
Far sooner than many may have hoped, Novak Djokovic, the reigning French Open champion, will take on Rafael Nadal, a 13-time champion at Roland Garros, in a quarterfinal match on Tuesday, the first rematch of two of the leading men’s players since their epic semifinal last June.
It took some of Nadal’s greatest tennis to survive a five-set, four-hour, 21-minute thriller Sunday evening against Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, but the match that so many crave is on the horizon.
“A huge challenge and probably the biggest one that you can have here in Roland Garros,” Djokovic said, anticipating Nadal, after his fourth straight-sets win, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3, a pummeling of Diego Schwartzman of Argentina. “I’m ready for it.”
Perhaps more than Nadal, who survived one of the great scares of his storied French Open career against Auger-Aliassime, the athletic and tireless Canadian with a booming serve and big forehand.
“We have a lot of history together,” Nadal said of Djokovic.
They have played each other 58 times, with Djokovic holding a 30-28 edge. It is a classic clash of styles, Nadal blasting away and running wild on the clay, his favorite surface, and Djokovic bringing his exquisite timing, incomparable steel, and the most varied arsenal in the game.
Even more, it is a clash of two men whose personalities and trajectories, especially over the past year, have pushed them into different realms of the sport and public consciousness. One is a beloved citizen of the world, the other a polarizing, outspoken iconoclast so set in his beliefs that he was prepared to spend his last prime years on the sidelines rather than receive a vaccination against Covid-19.
There were scattered boos as Djokovic was introduced on the Suzanne Lenglen Court on Sunday. Fans at the main court, Philippe Chatrier, chanted “Rafa, Rafa,” through the evening, urging on the Spanish champion who is immortalized with a nine-foot statue outside the stadium.
Since Djokovic pulled off the nearly impossible by beating Nadal
at last year’s French Open, Nadal has been jousting indirectly with his chief rival.
Djokovic, the world No. 1, and Nadal, the 13-time French Open champion, will continue their epic rivalry on Tuesday in the quarterfinal at Roland Garros.