TennisSection previews the 2022 French Open as Novak Djokovic takes on Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinal on Tuesday, May 31st, 2022.
Defending champion and top seed Novak Djokovic will renew his rivalry against his greatest rival Rafael Nadal for the umpteenth time at the French Open. Their 59th heavyweight collision is the biggest of the lot, and the winner is likely to win it all on final Sunday. Who will prevail?
In a match that was expected to be a sizable banana peel for Novak Djokovic, he won so routinely against the 15th seed Diego Schwartzman on Sunday. Djokovic hardly looked in trouble despite fending off a multitude of break points throughout the match. He only dropped serve once at the start of the second set, but quickly recovered to record an emphatic 6-1 6-3 6-3 win over the diminutive Argentine. Consequently, Djokovic has now advanced into his 13th straight quarterfinal at the French Open, and now holds the second-most wins at the clay slam (with 85) behind 13-time champion Rafael Nadal (109).
Rafael Nadal, by contrast, needed to go into his deepest reservoirs to overcome the stubborn Felix Auger-Aliassime in a high-quality fourth-round match on court Philippe Chatrier. The 13-time champion played some inspired tennis after going behind in the first set. Auger-Aliassime’s nervousness came to the fore in the eighth game of the second set when he produced two unforced errors to get broken. That proved telling as Nadalturned the match on its head. The Canadian did not wilt though, and after restoring parity in the fourth set when the Spaniard got tight, it seemed he had all the momentum. But Nadal, like the great champion he is, won the mental battle in the fifth set. His 3-6 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 win was just the third time he had been taken the distance at the French Open, but nonetheless maintained his perfect record in five set matches.
Novak Djokvic leads Rafael Nadal 30-28 in career meetings at all levels. Interestingly, their last three matches have all been on the clay, with Nadal winning the autumnal French Open final in 2020 and the Rome Masters final in 2021. Djokovic, however, defeated the 21-time Grand Slam winner in that epic semifinal at Roland Garros last season before going on to win his second title in these parts. Nadal’s numbers at the French Open are frightening. His 13 title triumphs have cemented his status as tennis immortal. But even during his peak years and throughout his illustrious career, Novak Djokovic has been the one player who has made him vulnerable on a surface he has made his own. In as much as these two greats will slug it out in a physical battle, Djokovic has a mental edge. He knows Nadal is not operating close to his best level, having missed a bulk of the clay-court swing in the build up to Roland Garros. Expect the Serbian World No. 1 to excel again in another epic.
Free Tennis Pick and Prediction: Novak Djokovic to win in 5 sets.
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