Ernest Omoarelojie, with agency reports
Novak Djokovic almost literally tore apart and nailed Rafael Nadal the clay court in Paris late Friday evening to book his place in Sunday’s final Roland Garros match. In a thrilling 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-2, the Serbian and world Numero Uno slowly sorted out his world number 3 contender and tournament’s 13th time champion in what tennis enthusiasts are already dubbing, “an all-classic”.
And it took a stretchy, energy-sapping 4 hours and 11 minutes for Djokovic to put to fruition the promise he made way back on his first tangle with Nadal on the same tournament many years ago. Though he lost out in the quarter final match then due to injury, he told whoever cared tolisten that he has found the antidote to end the Spaniad’s vice-like hold on clay court.
But Friday evening contest didn’t tee off as if he really had the antedote to take the poison out of Nadal’s blistering 5-0 leading in the opening round. If nothing at all, the opening round was a seeming encore of the duo’s last meet at the final in October last year where the Spanish south paw made mincemeats of his Serbian nemesis this evening. Though Nadal took the round 6-3, it didn’t take long for Djokovic to unfold a different game plan that would make the contest take a different turn and make Nadal ordinary on clay, his specialty.
Indeed, the first five games were more like a re-enactment of their previous meet as Nadal practically found quick fix answers to every shot by Djokovic, one his most remarkable arch rivals. However, the Serbian soon found a rhythm his Spanish opponent could not decipher. Therefrom, it was as if Djokovic pulled the chestnut out of a raging fire, amassing three games that cast an obvious doubt on Nadal’s game plans for the evening’s game.
Piling up points after point with outstanding athleticism, there was hardly any more doubt that Djokovic would make the evening May Day over Nadal’s Roland Garros dream for an appearance on Sunday. This was particularly the case as the clay court maestro kept floundering in response to Djokovic’s backhand strokes, part of which had the latter overcoming a set down to wax his way through his opponent’s game plan and executing a systematic plan of his own to eventually inflict the third ever defeat on the world’s number 3 in front of a frenzied crowd which loved every inch of the unfolding racket spectacle.
With the victory, Djokovic will, on Sunday, square up with Stefanie Tsitsipas, who earlier dispatched Alexander Zverev in a five-set bout.
“To win against Rafa on this court, you have to play your best tennis. It’s hard to find the words to sum up how you feel. You tell yourself that there is no pressure but there is. Pressure is a privilege to test my game and my character in match like this,” Djokovic enthused after the match. .