2022 – Nadal defeats Felix Auger-Aliassime to reach the quarter-finals of Novak Djokovic | French Open 2022

Rafael Nadal played 112 tennis matches at Roland Garros throughout his career and somehow only lost three times on those courts. But the most absurd measure of his complete dominance is how few players were able to push him over the edge, to really make him doubt. By Sunday afternoon, only twice in 17 years, some of the competitors here have extended it to five sets.

Then came Felix Auger-Aliassime, who entered Philippe Chatrier with quality, courage and confidence in his abilities, and took advantage of a poor Nadal to force the fifth set, pushing him over the edge. But even when Nadal struggled with aspects of his game when he desperately needed to get up, he recovered his form and finished the match on his terms. Still in the fight for his 14th French Open title, Nadal triumphed 3:6, 6:3, 6:2, 3:6, 6:3.

As a result, he and Novak Djokovic will relive their historic rivalry on the biggest stages when they face each other in the quarter-finals for the 59th time on Tuesday.

For the duel between former and current employers, his nephew and his new coach, Toni Nadal chose the most prominent seat in the house – the first row of the presidential box next to Gilles Moreton, president of the French Tennis Federation. He had a front row seat when Nadal upset the match on a frigid afternoon after the excitement of Real Madrid’s Champions League win, of which Nadal was a part of Saturday night.

While Nadal missed and missed several break points, Auger-Aliassime sent well and played hard from the floor to lead 5-1. But Nadal took a break and began what seemed an inevitable recovery, culminating in breaking Auger-Aliassime in the second set to make it 4-3. Then Nadal built all his momentum to lead in two sets to one.

Just when Nadal seemed to be in control, as he has done so many times in similar scenarios over the years, did he inexplicably start the fourth set with a barrage of unforced errors. He lost his serve in the opening match, immediately retaking the break, and conceded it with more bad forehand faults.

Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime pays tribute to the fans after the loss. Photo: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

While Nadal was struggling, Auger-Aliassime remained focused on his own intentions. Like his excellent start, he delivered Nadal’s kicks well-timed, kept looking for forehands to control and was confident in goal. He was rewarded with a fifth set for his mentality and commitment.

Encouraged by his game, Auger-Aliassime started the final set by saving a break point with a brave winner with a forehand. He kept pushing his limits, constantly closing the nets and throwing incredibly difficult aerial balls. But Nadal made his move at 4-3, upping his game completely with counter-attacks and hitting the net, and after pressing hard to create an opportunity, he chased down a good shot and slipped with a backhand into the open space. After the players exchanged cheers, the crowd ended up chanting for one man.

After a heartbreaking quarter-final loss to Daniil Medvedev in Melbourne earlier this year, Auger-Aliassime leaves Paris with great prospects. His attempts to make him a multi-talented player along with coaches Fred Fontang and Toni Nadal are paying off. The player, out of ideas in his early changes against the big players, kept looking for solutions here and often found them.

For the 36-year-old, the next hurdle is clear. Earlier in the day, 15th seed Djokovic passed Diego Schwartzman 6-1 6-3 6-3 without incident. He reached the quarter-finals as well as we had hoped. After winning the Italian Open in his last match before the French Open, the top seed has not dropped a set in his four rounds this year.

“I’m glad I didn’t spend much time on the pitch until the quarter-finals, knowing that playing with him at Roland Garros is always a physical struggle, along with everything else,” Djokovic said. Last year, he said. “It’s a huge challenge and probably the biggest you can face here at Roland Garros. I’m ready for it.”