Nadal Wins 14th French Open And Record-Extending 22nd Grand Slam

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning against Norway’s Casper Ruud at the end of their men’s singles final match on day fifteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 5, 2022. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

 

Rafael Nadal won a 14th French Open and record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title on Sunday with a straight-sets rout of Casper Ruud to become the oldest male champion at Roland Garros.

In a disappointing final, 36-year-old Nadal won 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 with victory coming 17 years to the day since he claimed his first French Open as a 19-year-old in 2005.

Nadal won the last 11 games of the final and is now two Slams ahead of old rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer with Sunday’s victory coming against all the odds.

Nadal, the oldest winner in Paris since a 34-year-old Andre Gimeno in 1972, had not been certain of taking part after a chronic left foot injury, which has plagued him throughout his career, flared up again.

He also needed the best part of a gruelling 12 hours to see off Felix Auger-Aliassime, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in the previous three rounds.

READ ALSO: Nadal Aims To Be French Open’s Oldest Champion Against Pupil Ruud

His two-hour 18-minute win on Sunday took his record at the tournament to 112 wins against just three losses and also put him halfway to a rare calendar men’s Grand Slam last achieved by Rod Laver in 1969.

Nadal, unbeaten in 13 previous finals in Paris and playing in his 30th Grand Slam decider, got off to a flying start against Ruud, the first Norwegian man to feature in a championship match at the majors.

He broke for 2-0 and even though he handed the break straight back courtesy of a two uncharacteristic double faults, he was quickly back in front again for 3-1.

The Spaniard wrapped up the opener in 49 minutes against his 23-year-old opponent who has trained at his academy in Manacor since 2018.

World number eight Ruud, the in-form player on clay since the start of 2020 with 66 wins on the surface, was under siege again in the second set, having to fight off three break points in the opening game.

 

Spain’s Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Norway’s Casper Ruud during their men’s simples final match on day fifteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 5, 2022. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

 

There was a sudden glimmer of hope when he broke for 3-1 with Nadal again coughing up a double fault. However, Nadal roared back with a double break for 4-3.

Ruud saved three set points in the ninth game but his first double fault of the final handed Nadal a two-set lead.

Nadal had said on the eve of the final that he would rather lose Sunday’s match in exchange for a new foot.

However, without needing to hit top gear, he was in complete control against Ruud, racing away to the title with three breaks in a third set which was over in 30 minutes.

Nadal sealed the win with a backhand down the line, his 37th winner of the final.

AFP

Nadal Aims To Be French Open’s Oldest Champion Against Pupil Ruud

Spain’s Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Norway’s Casper Ruud during their men’s simples final match on day fifteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 5, 2022. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

 

Rafael Nadal will become the oldest man to win the French Open title if he defeats Casper Ruud, the Norwegian whose clay court talents he has personally helped foster.

Nadal will be playing in his 14th Roland Garros final on Sunday and 30th overall at the Grand Slams.

Victory will deliver a record-extending 22nd major and 14th French Open, 17 years after his title winning debut in Paris.

The 36-year-od Nadal is, however, as surprised as anyone to have got this far.

A chronic left foot injury which has plagued him throughout his career flared up again in Rome last month, putting a serious question mark over him even making it to the French capital.

“Without a doubt, I’d prefer to lose the final and have a new foot,” admitted Nadal who has not hidden the brutal reality that every match he plays at Roland Garros may be his last.

Despite his fears, Nadal has impressively battled his way into Sunday’s championship match.

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He needed five sets and more than four hours to see off Felix Auger-Aliassime in the last 16 and another four hours to get past Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

Alexander Zverev then pushed him all the way for three hours in the semi-finals until a sickening ankle injury forced the German world number three to quit on crutches.

Despite the German’s bold all-or-nothing challenge, Nadal still cut an impressive presence on court, at one point coming out on top in a lung-busting 44-shot rally.

“As each round goes by, he is transformed into a new player,” said coach Carlos Moya.

Nadal’s record at the French Open now stands at 111 wins and just three losses. Djokovic was responsible for two of those defeats.

– ‘The greatest’ –

Victory on Sunday will make him the tournament’s oldest champion, eclipsing compatriot Andres Gimeno who was 34 when he took the title 50 years ago.

World number eight Ruud, 23, is the tour’s in-form clay court player.

Not only have seven of his eight career titles come on clay, but he has won 66 matches on the surface since 2020 and played in nine finals.

Ruud is the first Norwegian to reach a Grand Slam final.

Robin Soderling, a fellow Scandinavian, is the only other man apart from Djokovic to have defeated Nadal in Paris back in 2009.

Ruud has been training at Nadal’s academy in Manacor since 2018 alongside his father Christian, a former top 40 player, and Spaniard Pedro Clar.

“I think we found a good balance. From a young age, 13 or 14, he respected that I was a player. He knew what I was talking about,” Christian told AFP on Sunday.

Nadal and Ruud have never met professionally but they are often hitting partners in Spain where the Norwegian admits “he has beaten me pretty much all the times in practice”.

“Casper has a very good character to play tennis. He’s very relaxed, humble. He’s always in a positive mood about learning,” said Nadal.

“I think in the academy we were able to help him a little bit during this period of time.”

Ruud was just six years old when Nadal was first crowned French Open champion and describes the Spaniard as his “idol”.

“I could probably tell you all the finals and who he has played and who he has beaten, because I watched them all on TV,” said the Norwegian.

“He’s the greatest clay court player of all time and one of the greatest all-around players.”

Victory for Nadal will give him the Australian Open-French Open double in the same year for the first time.

That would also put him halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, achieved only three times in history, the last of which was by Rod Laver in 1969.

“I fought, I have done all the things possible to give myself another chance to play in the final of Roland Garros,” said Nadal.

“All the sacrifices and all the things that I need to go through to try to keep playing, really makes sense when you enjoy moments like I’m enjoying in this tournament.”

Meanwhile, Coco Gauff suffered a second heartbreaking French Open final defeat when she and American partner Jessica Pegula were beaten by Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic in the women’s doubles final.

The French pair won 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to add the 2022 title to their 2016 Roland Garros triumph.

On Saturday, 18-year-old Gauff had lost the singles final at Roland Garros in straight sets to Iga Swiatek of Poland.

“Hopefully, we can win one in the future,” Gauff told the crowd and praised the atmosphere.

“The band was pretty cool, I thought I was at an American Football game.”

Swiatek Brushes Aside Gauff To Win Second French Open Title

Poland's Iga Swiatek poses with the trophy after winning against US' Coco Gauff at the end of their women's single final match on day fourteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 4, 2022. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP
Poland’s Iga Swiatek poses with the trophy after winning against US’ Coco Gauff at the end of their women’s single final match on day fourteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 4, 2022. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Iga Swiatek cruised to her second French Open title by dominating teenager Coco Gauff in the final on Saturday, as the world number one claimed her 35th successive victory.

The 21-year-old Polish star stormed to a 6-1, 6-3 win in only 68 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier, equalling Venus Williams’ record for the longest winning run by a woman in the 21st century.

Swiatek celebrated her sixth straight title this year in the players’ box with her friends and family.

“I told Coco ‘Don’t cry’ and that’s what I am doing. Congrats to Coco,” said an emotional Swiatek.

READ ALSO: Nadal Into 14th French Open Final As Zverev Quits With Horror Injury

“You are doing an amazing job. At your age, I was on my first year on tour and I did not know what I was doing. You will find it, I am sure of that.”

A disconsolate Gauff was left sitting on her seat in tears after a nervous performance, punctuated by 23 unforced errors and three double faults.

The 18-year-old American came up short in her bid to become the youngest Grand Slam singles champion since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004.

“I want to congratulate Iga, what you’ve done on tour in these past couple of months has been amazing,” said Gauff, as the tears flowed again when she thanked her team.

“I hope we can play in more finals and maybe I can win one… I want to thank my team, I’m sorry I couldn’t get this one today.”

Swiatek, only the 10th woman to win multiple French Opens in the Open era, lost just one set in the tournament — against China’s Zheng Qinwen in the fourth round.

She has now won all three of her career meetings with Gauff, who was playing in her first major final.

Gauff will now turn her attentions to Sunday’s doubles final, where she will face home favourites Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic alongside compatriot Jessica Pegula.

Swiatek improved her remarkable record in finals, having won her last nine on the WTA Tour.

Swiatek expressed her support for Ukraine during the trophy presentation, despite saying before the final that she does not feel ready to speak about off-court issues.

“I want to say to Ukraine, ‘Stay strong’. The war is still there,” she said, to cheers from the stands.

Nervous Gauff

Gauff looked nervous in the opening exchanges and a flurry of unforced errors handed Swiatek a break in the very first game.

The 18th seed found herself 3-0 and a double break down just 16 minutes into the match, as Swiatek’s powerful backhand helped her win a lengthy third game on her fifth break point.

Gauff finally got on the board with a scrappy hold to the delight of the crowd, but she had dropped a set for the first time in the tournament just minutes later.

Swiatek was not playing her best, but a cross-court backhand winner brought up two set points and she took the second opportunity when Gauff fired wide.

The Pole gifted her opponent a potential route back into the match, making four unforced errors to throw away her serve in the first game of the second set.

Swiatek recomposed herself though as the mistakes continued to come from Gauff, breaking back to level at 2-2.

She made it five straight games to move within one of the title, losing only five points in the process.

Gauff dug deep to force Swiatek to serve for the trophy.

But the top seed did just that on her first match point, dropping to the red clay in celebration as Gauff sent a return flying long.

 

AFP

Nadal Into 14th French Open Final As Zverev Quits With Horror Injury

Germany's Alexander Zverev (C) shakes hands with umpire Renaud Lichtenstein (L) as he walks on crutches after being injured during his men's semi-final singles match against Spain's Rafael Nadal (R) on day thirteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 3, 2022. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP
Germany’s Alexander Zverev (C) shakes hands with umpire Renaud Lichtenstein (L) as he walks on crutches after being injured during his men’s semi-final singles match against Spain’s Rafael Nadal (R) on day thirteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 3, 2022. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Rafael Nadal reached his 14th French Open final on Friday when Alexander Zverev was forced to quit their semi-final after suffering a sickening right ankle injury.

Zverev had to leave the court in a wheelchair after turning his ankle as he chased down the ball in front of the players’ boxes on Court Philippe Chatrier where his team and family were sitting.

The German was trailing 7-6 (10/8), 6-6 after more than three hours of play at the time of the horror injury.

As his piercing screams of pain echoed around the 15,000-seater court, a tearful Zverev was helped from the court by medics.

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Minutes later, the 25-year-old returned on crutches and conceded the match, with Nadal embracing his heartbroken opponent.

“It’s very tough and very sad for him. He was playing an unbelievable tournament and he’s a very good colleague on the tour,” said Nadal.

“I know how much he’s fighting to win a Grand Slam. For the moment, he was very unlucky. I’m sure he’ll win not one, but much more than one. I wish him all the best.

“It had been a super tough match. Over three hours and we didn’t even finish the second set. It’s one of the biggest challenges on the tour when he’s playing like he did today.”

Germany's Alexander Zverev falls injured on court during his men's semi-final singles match against Spain's Rafael Nadal on day thirteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 3, 2022. Tomas Stevens / AFP
Germany’s Alexander Zverev falls injured on court during his men’s semi-final singles match against Spain’s Rafael Nadal on day thirteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 3, 2022. Tomas Stevens / AFP

 

He added: “For me, to be in the final of Roland Garros is a dream, without a doubt, but at the same time, for it to finish that way… I have been there in the small room with Sascha and to see him crying like that — I wish him all the best.”

Nadal, chasing a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title, will play either Marin Cilic or Casper Ruud in Sunday’s final.

Until the dramatic end of the match, Zverev had been pushing Nadal all the way.

In a rollercoaster, 91-minute first set, Zverev broke in the opening game before Nadal levelled at 4-4.

The Spaniard, dripping with sweat under the closed roof on Court Philippe Chatrier, saw three set points come and go in the 10th game as the German’s all-or-nothing hitting kept him in the match.

Nadal, celebrating his 36th birthday Friday, then saved four set points in a knife-edge tiebreak, one of them off a spectacular running crosscourt forehand.

A blistering forehand pass gave him the opener on a sixth set point.

Zverev, playing in the semi-finals at Roland Garros for the second successive year, hit 25 winners and 26 unforced errors in the set.

The second set was punctuated by eight breaks of serve. When Nadal broke for 2-1, he did so on the back of an exhausting 44-shot rally.

Zverev also collected a warning for bad language as the set headed towards another tiebreak.

However, that became quickly irrelevant when his attempt to reach a second Grand Slam final ended in such dramatic circumstances.

Nadal becomes the second oldest man to make the final in Paris after 37-year-old Bill Tilden who was runner-up in 1930.

Victory gives Nadal, who knocked out world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, a 111-3 record at the French Open.

 

AFP

Djokovic, Nadal Clash For 59th Time In French Open Blockbuster

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

 

Novak Djokovic renews his 16-year rivalry with Rafael Nadal at the French Open on Tuesday with a semi-final 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.

“I am just enjoying the fact that I am here for one more year. And being honest, every match that I play here, I don’t know if it’s going to be my last at Roland Garros.”

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.

– Night fears –

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.

Djokovic has reached the last eight with ease. He has won 22 sets in a row, a run stretching back to his Italian Open triumph in Rome.

“Playing Nadal in Roland Garros is always a physical battle,” said Djokovic.

Adding an extra twist was a battle of wills over scheduling which Nadal lost Monday when organisers selected the quarter-final for the night session under the Court Philippe Chatrier lights.

“I don’t like to play on clay during the night, because the humidity is higher, the ball is slower, and there can be very heavy conditions especially when it’s cold,” said Nadal.

Djokovic hinted he would prefer to face Nadal as late as possible.

“All I will say is Rafa and I would make different requests,” he said.

“But requests are not always accepted. The tournament director, along with TV, broadcasters, I think in the end of the day that that’s who decides.”

Nadal’s coach Carlos Moya said that the Spaniard’s opinion should have carried weight.

“I wouldn’t say disrespect, but here at Roland Garros, Rafa has credit,” Moya told RMC Sport.

“He has won the tournament 13 times, and if he has a request, you should listen to him.”

Iga Swiatek came out on the side of Nadal when she was asked to describe the benefits of being world number one.

“Well, I really enjoy when I have a request about what hour I want to play and they are actually listening. That’s nice,” said the Pole.

Carlos Alcaraz, who faces Alexander Zverev later Tuesday, said it would have been “unfair” if he was ordered to play after 9pm for the third time.

– Alcaraz show –

Alcaraz, 19, is the youngest man to make the last eight in Paris since Djokovic in 2006.

He boasts a 2022 clay-court record of 20 wins against just one loss. For the year, he is 32-3.

The sixth seed had to save a match point to defeat compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round but has otherwise been unburdened by expectations.

Alcaraz tackles third-seeded Zverev having defeated the German in the final of the Madrid Masters where he also knocked out both Nadal and Djokovic.

While Djokovic, Nadal, Zverev and Alcaraz battle in the top of the draw, the bottom section has been blown wide open by the fourth-round exits of second-ranked Daniil Medvedev and number four Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 2021 runner-up.

As a result, one of Holger Rune, Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev or 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic will make Sunday’s final.

Djokovic’s Coach Ivanisevic Lends Hand To Cirstea At French Open

File photo: A handout picture made available by the press office of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on February 20, 2022. (Photo by jorge ferrari / Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship / AFP)

 

Sorana Cirstea made the French Open second round on Sunday with a little help from 2001 Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic, the coach of world number one and reigning Roland Garros champion Novak Djokovic.

The 32-year-old Romanian, who reached the quarter-finals in Paris in 2009, eased past Tatjana Maria 6-3, 6-3 to set up a clash with former US Open champion Sloane Stephens for a place in the last 32.

Cirstea said she had enjoyed taking on board tips from Ivanisevic whose main job is to steer Djokovic to a 21st Grand Slam title.

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“I just asked for his help and I was lucky enough to get an hour of his time at practice two days ago. I talked with him a little bit about what’s going through my head and just tennis talk,” said 26th seed Cirstea.

“And today I was very surprised to see him because I know he’s very busy with Novak. He’s just been giving me a few tips and tricks from a Grand Slam champion, and as a coach of No. 1, and someone that has so much experience.”

AFP

Nadal Back In Training After Four-Week Rib Injury Layoff

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 19, 2022 Rafael Nadal of Spain hits a backhand to compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in their ATP semifinal match at the Indian Wells tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California.  Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

 

Rafael Nadal returned to training on Monday following a four-week rib injury layoff, with just over a month to go before the French Open in Roland Garros.

“Today’s first gentle workout after four weeks without stepping on a tennis court. What excitement to step onto clay again!” world number four wrote on Twitter alongside two photos showing him training indoors on clay.

Nadal picked up the injury in his loss to American Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells final on March 22, announcing at the time he expected to be out for between four and six weeks.

That defeat ended his perfect 20-0 run to start 2022 which had included winning the Australian Open title.

The 35-year-old missed last week’s Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open, currently underway, but could potentially return for the Madrid Masters on May 1-8.

His main focus will be on being fit for the French Open which begins on May 22. Nadal has won the title at Roland Garros 13 times.

Nadal beat Daniil Medvedev in an epic final in Melbourne after Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia over his Covid vaccination status.

That victory gave him a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title, moving him out of a tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer.

During the Spaniard’s absence, teenage compatriot Carlos Alcaraz emerged with a Miami Open triumph while Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas claimed a second consecutive Monte Carlo title.

AFP

Djokovic Conquers ‘Everest’, Eyes 52-Year Landmark At French Open

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Spain's Rafael Nadal at the end of their men's singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Spain’s Rafael Nadal at the end of their men’s singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic can become the first man in 52 years to win all four Grand Slam titles twice in the French Open final on Sunday after conquering Rafael Nadal, the ‘Mount Everest’ of Roland Garros.

World number one Djokovic takes on Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas for the title with tennis history on the line.

Victory for the Serb will take him alongside Roy Emerson and Rod Laver as the only men to capture the four majors more than once.

It’s an achievement that has proved even beyond the capabilities of Nadal and Roger Federer.

It is so rare an accomplishment that it hasn’t happened since 1969 when Laver completed his second calendar Grand Slam.

Djokovic can pocket a 19th Slam with victory and move just one behind the record of 20 jointly held by Nadal and Federer.

Djokovic insists there will be no letdown physically or emotionally after reaching the final in Paris for a sixth time with an epic triumph over 13-time champion Nadal.

“It’s not the first time that I play an epic semi-final in a Grand Slam and then I have to come back in less than 48 hours and play finals,” said the 34-year-old.

“My recovery abilities have been pretty good throughout my career.”

His four-hour, four-set battle with Nadal is already jostling for a prime spot in the list of “greatest ever matches” at the Slams.

– ‘Never believed’ –

It featured a lung-busting 92-minute third set and required government intervention to allow the 5,000 fans inside Court Philippe Chatrier to watch the match’s conclusion despite it extending beyond the 11pm Covid-19 curfew.

The 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 triumph gave Djokovic the honour of being the only man to have beaten Nadal in Paris more than once, having first achieved it in the 2015 quarter-finals.

Nadal has only lost three times in 108 matches since his title-winning debut in 2005.

Djokovic, the 2016 champion, said it was his best win in Paris and ranked it among his “three greatest” ever performances.

“It’s hard to find words bigger than all the superlatives you can think of for Rafa’s achievements at Roland Garros,” said Djokovic who now leads their series 30-28 and had lost three finals in the French capital to Nadal.

“Each time you step on the court with him, you know that you have to kind of climb Mount Everest to win against this guy here.”

Djokovic has already admitted he’s a fan of Tsitsipas, proclaiming him as a Grand Slam champion in the making.

“He is a hard worker, dedicated, nice guy,” said Djokovic.

“He’s very smart and wise. I love the fact that he is more than just a tennis player and he’s always looking to learn from experience and to understand something new about himself.

“That’s the trait of a champion.”

Djokovic will be playing in his 29th Slam final on Sunday.

He holds a 5-2 record over Tsitsipas, a run which includes all three meetings on clay.

At last year’s Roland Garros, Djokovic won their semi-final over five sets.

“We played an epic five-setter last year in the semis here. I know it’s going to be another tough one,” added Djokovic who also defeated Tsitsipas in Rome on the eve of the French Open.

“I’m hoping I can recharge my batteries as much as I can because I’m going to need some power and energy for that one.”

Tsitsipas, 22, and 12 years younger than the Serb, is in his first Slam final having ended a run of three semi-final losses by defeating Alexander Zverev over five sets on Friday.

Victory on Sunday would make him the first Greek player to win a Slam title.

He would also become the youngest champion in Paris since Nadal in 2008 and overall at the Slams since Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 US Open.

“I’ve never believed, have never really thought at what age this achievement might come,” said Tsitsipas.

“But I’m really happy with myself. I think I’ve shown good discipline so far. I’ve been progressive.”

Tsitsipas is the hottest player on tour in 2021 with a season-leading 39 wins.

Twenty-two of those have come on clay and have reaped a Masters title in Monte Carlo as well as Lyon.

Tsitsipas also had a match point in the Barcelona final against eventual champion Nadal.

“There is the final on Sunday, which is exciting. I’m looking forward to leaving my entire body on the court,” said the Greek who knocked out second seed Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals.

Djokovic Defeats 13-Time Champion Nadal In Epic French Open Semi-Final

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Spain's Rafael Nadal at the end of their men's singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Spain’s Rafael Nadal at the end of their men’s singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic handed 13-time champion Rafael Nadal only his third defeat in 16 years and 108 matches at the French Open on Friday to reach his sixth Roland Garros final in an epic showdown which even beat the country’s Covid-19 curfew.

In their 58th career clash, Djokovic triumphed 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 and stays on course to capture a 19th major and become the first man in over 50 years to win all four Slams twice.

Djokovic, the 2016 champion in Paris who had also beaten Nadal at the 2015 tournament, will face Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final in what will be his 29th championship match at the Slams.

Tsitsipas had earlier become the first Greek to reach a Grand Slam final with a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

Nadal, 35, who would have been the oldest finalist at the French Open in the modern era, remains tied on 20 majors with Roger Federer.

“It was a privilege to face Rafa in such an incredible match,” said Djokovic after four hours and 11 minutes of intense action.

“Tonight it was my greatest ever match in Paris.”

It was his second win in eight meetings in Paris with Nadal, a sequence which also included three losses in finals.

It was Nadal’s first defeat in 14 semi-finals in the French capital.

“Probably it was not my best day today, even if I fought,” said Nadal.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I had a big chance. There were some crazy points but there was fatigue there.”

Djokovic finished with 50 winners; Nadal committed 55 unforced errors under the relentless assault.

Djokovic had two break points in the opening game of the first set which stretched to 10 minutes but was unable to convert.

Curfew-buster

Nadal made him pay, sprinting away for a 5-0 lead before the top seed got on the board.

Djokovic clung on, retrieving one break to get to 2-5 but Nadal eventually prevailed after one hour on court even if he required seven set points to edge ahead.

As a sign of the tension of the occasion, Nadal complained to chair umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore that he needed more time to collect his towel.

Djokovic aired his bemusement at the amount of clay on the baselines.

Spain's Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their men's singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP
Spain’s Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during their men’s singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

The old rivals exchanged breaks in the second and third games of a big-hitting second set but it was Djokovic who repeated the feat for a 4-2 lead before levelling the tie.

Twice in the third set Djokovic edged ahead, only to be reeled back in by Nadal who broke back in the 10th game as the world number one served for the set.

Djokovic then had to save a set point with an ice-cool drop shot in the 12th game.

“You cannot play better clay court tennis than this. It’s perfect,” tweeted Andy Murray.

A 92-minute third set ended with Djokovic taking the tiebreak.

In a further twist on a dramatic evening, the 5,000 spectators inside Court Philippe Chatrier were allowed to watch the conclusion of the match despite it passing the 11pm Covid-19 curfew.

“In agreement with the national authorities, the match will come to an end in your presence,” said a stadium announcer told delighted fans.

Nadal then broke in the first game of the fourth set but Djokovic levelled for 2-2 and broke again for 4-2.

He finished it off on a second match point when Nadal hit wide and long.

Tsitsipas Becomes First Greek To Reach Grand Slam Final At French Open

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates after winning against Germany's Alexander Zverev during their men's singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP
Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates after winning against Germany’s Alexander Zverev during their men’s singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first Greek player to reach a Grand Slam final on Friday when he defeated Germany’s Alexander Zverev in a bruising five-setter at the French Open.

Fifth-seeded Tsitsipas won 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 and will face either 13-time champion Rafael Nadal or world number one Novak Djokovic in the championship match.

However, the 22-year-old will have his work cut out on Sunday — he is 2-7 against Nadal and 2-5 playing Djokovic.

“All I can think of is my roots, a small place outside Athens where I dreamed to play on the big stage at the French Open,” said a tearful Tsitsipas on making his first final at the majors, secured on a fifth match point.

“It was nerve-wracking, so intense, I stayed alive. I went out there and fought. This win means a lot, it’s the most important one of my career so far.”

Tsitsipas took a 5-2 career lead over Zverev into the semi-final and he was the first to pounce with the only break of the opening set in the second game.

The rock-solid Greek didn’t give up a single break point although in an indication of the fine margins, Tsitsipas only hit one winner.

Zverev, bidding to become the first German man since Michael Stich in 1996 to reach the final in Paris, raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set.

However, Tsitsipas’ greater composure saw him rack up six consecutive games to move two sets ahead.

The Greek had come into the semi-final certainly sharper having seen off three seeded players to get this far.

Zverev had needed five sets to beat his 152nd-ranked compatriot Oscar Otte in the first round and hadn’t faced a player inside the top 45 before Friday.

But Zverev carved a break in the third game of the third set and this time backed it up despite a lengthy, foul-mouthed rant at the umpire over a disputed line call.

The 24-year-old German, now fired up, broke in the opening game of the fourth set and levelled the semi-final in the 10th game on the back of a brutal 27-shot rally.

Tsitsipas, playing in his third consecutive semi-final at the majors, crucially saved three break points in the first game of the decider.

He made the most of the escape, breaking the German for 3-1 and quickly securing the advantage for 4-1.

In a 10-minute eighth game, Zverev saved four match points, the second of which with a drop shot, the third with an ace.

However, Tsitsipas held his nerve and claimed victory after over three and a half hours on court with his eighth ace of the match.

Gauff Becomes Youngest Grand Slam Quarter-Finalist In 15 Years

File photo of Coco Gauff during a match. PHOTO: MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Coco Gauff became the youngest Grand Slam quarter-finalist in 15 years on Monday when she defeated Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur at the French Open.

Gauff, seeded 24, swept to a 53-minute 6-3, 6-1 win and takes on Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic for a place in the semi-finals.

At the age of 17 years and 86 days, Gauff is the youngest woman to reach the last eight of a Slam since Nicole Vaidisova who made the quarter-finals at Roland Garros in 2006 aged 17 years and 44 days.

READ ALSO: Naomi Osaka Withdraws From Berlin Tournament

She is also the youngest American woman to book a place in the last eight in Paris since Jennifer Capriati in 1993.

In a composed performance on Court Philippe Chatrier on Monday, the American teenager broke her fellow former junior champion three times without facing a break point herself.

“I am super happy to reach my first Grand Slam quarter-final. I played really well today,” said Gauff who has yet to drop a set at the tournament.

Gauff came into the French Open on the back of a clay-court title in Parma.

“Parma taught me how to close out matches and how to deal with pressure,” added the American who also discovered Monday that she had claimed a place on the American team for the Tokyo Olympics.

AFP

Roger Federer Withdraws From 2021 French Open

Switzerland's Roger Federer serves the ball to Germany's Dominik Koepfer during their men's singles third round tennis match on Day 7 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 5, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
File photo: Switzerland’s Roger Federer serves the ball to Germany’s Dominik Koepfer during their men’s singles third round tennis match on Day 7 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 5, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Roger Federer pulled out of what was possibly his last French Open on Sunday as a precautionary measure to rest up before Wimbledon, unwilling to risk his troublesome knee after an injury-plagued past 18 months.

Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam title winner, who will be 40 in two months’ time, had battled over three and a half hours until 12.45am Sunday morning to reach the last 16 in Paris.

“After discussions with my team, I’ve decided I will need to pull out of Roland Garros today,” Federer said.

“After two knee surgeries and over a year of rehabilitation it’s important that I listen to my body and make sure I don’t push myself too quickly on my road to recovery.

“I am thrilled to have gotten three matches under my belt. There is no greater feeling than being back on court.”

The Swiss star was due to play Italy’s Matteo Berrettini on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals, but Federer had cast doubt over whether he would continue following his win over Dominik Koepfer.

Federer was playing only his third tournament since last year’s Australian Open and has always said Wimbledon is his main goal.

He is chasing a ninth title at Wimbledon which starts on June 28.

He is also scheduled to play the warm-up grass court tournament in Halle beginning on June 14, the day after the French Open ends.

“The Roland Garros tournament is sorry about the withdrawal of Roger Federer, who put up an incredible fight last night,” said tournament director Guy Forget.

“We were all delighted to see Roger back in Paris, where he played three high-level matches. We wish him all the best for the rest of the season,”

If his knife-edge 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 win over 59th-ranked Koepfer was his last match in Paris, it will be remembered as a gripping affair on the court, but soulless off it.

Due to a government-imposed Covid-19 curfew, Court Philippe Chatrier was devoid of fans and atmosphere.

Federer, who made his Roland Garros debut in 1999 and was champion in 2009, was playing a night session for the first time.

However, the almost empty 15,000-capacity court was eerily silent.

Federer’s return this year was only his second French Open participation since 2015.

Serena eyes history 

Serena Williams of the US serves the ball to Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu during their women’s singles second round tennis match on Day 4 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2021. (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU / AFP)

 

While he leaves an event where Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were always the title favourites, fellow veteran Serena Williams resumes her bid for a historic 24th Grand Slam title.

Seeded seventh, the 39-year-old Williams is the second-highest ranked player left in the women’s draw.

After Naomi Osaka’s shock withdrawal, Simona Halep missing the event through injury and early losses for Bianca Andreescu and Angelique Kerber, none of the players who have beaten Williams in Grand Slam finals since her last title at the 2017 Australian Open are still in the competition.

The former world number one, still just one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of major trophies, takes on Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Williams has not gone beyond the fourth round in Paris since losing the 2016 final to Garbine Muguruza.

She arrived at this year’s French Open with just one win on clay this term.

“I’ve had a rough clay court season thus far, so I’m happy to get some wins on the clay,” Williams said after beating fellow American Danielle Collins in round three.

Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, fancied to reach his first Grand Slam final, with Nadal and Djokovic in the other half of the draw, sealed his return to the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.

A semi-finalist at the past two majors, Tsitsipas was beaten in a thrilling five-setter by Djokovic in Paris eight months ago.

He could next face twice Grand Slam finalist and second seed Daniil Medvedev, the Russian who plays Chile’s Cristian Garin in the last 16.

Earlier, Tamara Zidansek became the first Slovenian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final when she defeated Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7/4), 6-1.

The world number 85, who knocked out former US Open champion Andreescu in round one, will meet Paula Badosa for a place in the semi-finals after the Spaniard beat 2019 Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova returned to the Roland Garros quarter-finals for the first time since 2011, defeating former world number one Victoria Azarenka 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

AFP