Djokovic pulls off French Open quarterfinal win over Nadal

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Djokovic pulls off French Open quarterfinal win over Nadal :

Novak Djokovic just won the French Open. He still needs to win two matches to actually take the title, but on Wednesday afternoon he did something that could be considered even more impressive, something only one other player has done since 2005: Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal in Paris.

Djokovic came in the higher seed – No. 1 to Nadal’s No. 6 – but Roland Garros is Nadal’s playground. He’d won nine of the last 10 titles there, amassing a career record of 70-1.

Nadal has twice defeated Djokovic in the final. He’s knocked Djokovic out of the tournament six times, including the last three years. If Djokovic hoped to complete a career Grand Slam, he’d eventually have to get past Nadal. 

For all of that past domination, Nadal had nothing on Djokovic this year. The Serb advanced to the semifinal with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 win. 

Djokovic jumped out to an early lead, breaking Nadal to go up 2-0. Despite the lopsided score, they were pushing each other to every edge of the court in astonishing rallies, none more amazing than this:

Djokovic eventually took the point in that rally. He’d expand his lead to 4-0 before Nadal started to fight back, winning four straight games of his own to even it at 4-all. Each held serve in the next two games to go to 5-all. 

Djokovic held serve, then broke Nadal to complete the set, 7-5. Djokovic had completely regained control. He wouldn’t reliquish it again. He took the second set 6-3.

That put him up two sets to love, the first time Nadal had ever lost the first two sets in a best-of-five match on clay courts. 

Djokovic broke Nadal to start the third set. At love-40, Nadal butchered a forehand at the net, something he’d struggled with throughout the match. Djokovic hit 23 forehand winners, to Nadal’s three.

After so many impressive rallies, the match came to a sputtering end as Nadal double faulted on match point. The only other time he entered Roland Garros and didn’t win was in 2009, when Robin Soderling pulled off a stunning fourth-round win.

“I lost in 2009 and it’s not the end. I lost in 2015 and it’s not the end. I hope to be back here next year with another chance,” Nadal said in his press conference. “There is only one thing sure: I’m going to work harder even than before to come back stronger.”

Djokovic moves on to his seventh French Open semifinal, where he’ll face No. 3 Andy Murray. Murray defeated No. 7 David Ferrer in four sets, 7-6, 6-2, 5-7, 6-1. 

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