PARIS (AFP) – Novak Djokovic renews his 16-year rivalry with Rafael Nadal at the French Open on Tuesday with a semifinal spot at stake and where victory for the world number one could end the 13-time champion’s Roland Garros career.
Nadal, who turns 36 on Friday, puts his record of 109 wins and just three losses in Paris since his title-winning debut in 2005 on the line against the defending champion.
The Spaniard was taken to five sets for only the third time at the tournament by 21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round.
In the immediate aftermath of that victory, Nadal admitted that not only was this year’s French Open at stake but possibly his entire playing future.
“I know my situation, and I accept it,” said Nadal, who arrived in Paris unsure if he would be able to take part after suffering a recurrence of a chronic foot injury which has plagued him for most of his career.
Overall, Djokovic leads Nadal 30-28 since their first career meeting at the 2006 French Open.
Nadal has a 19-8 edge on clay and has won seven of the pair’s nine meetings in Paris.
Djokovic, however, came out on top in the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2021 on his way to a second title.
That defeat took a physical toll on Nadal who then skipped Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open.
With Djokovic deported from Melbourne on the eve of the Australian Open, Nadal seized the opportunity to claim a record-setting 21st Grand Slam title, breaking a tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Both men are playing in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for the 16th time.
Meantime, world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and fourth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas crashed out in the fourth round on Monday as women’s top seed Iga Swiatek took her winning streak to 32 matches after surviving a huge scare.
US Open champion Medvedev was beaten by 20th seed Marin Cilic, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, in just 1hr 45 min on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Tsitsipas, the 2021 runner-up to Novak Djokovic, was defeated by Danish teenager Holger Rune, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, earlier in the day.
Cilic will face Russia’s Andrey Rublev in his third career Roland Garros quarter-final.
Rune will next face eighth-seeded Casper Ruud who became the first Norwegian man to reach the last eight with a 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz.
Swiatek survived a scare at the hands of injured Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen, dropping the first set before going on to make the quarter-finals.
Swiatek prevailed 6-7 (5/7), 6-0, 6-2 to equal the third best winning streak this century of 32 matches set by Justine Henin 14 years ago.
“She played amazing tennis,” said Swiatek. “I am proud to be still in the tournament.”
In an 82-minute opening set, 74th-ranked Zheng saved five set points, had two of her own and then clawed her way back from 2/5 down in the tiebreak to stun the top seed.