Djokovic v Nadal -- key passages from chapter 59

·3-min read

Rafael Nadal edged a late-night classic against old rival Novak Djokovic in the early hours of Wednesday to reach his 15th French Open semi-final.

The 13-time champion won the pair's 59th career meeting 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) after a four-hour-and-12-minute quarter-final on a raucous Court Philippe Chatrier.

AFP Sport looks at the key moments in the eagerly-awaited quarter-final between two men who have won 41 Grand Slam titles between them:

1st set

-- A 22-shot rally on just the second point of the match provides an early snapshot of what lies ahead. Game lasts 10 minutes and Nadal, who had not wanted to play in the night session, breaks.

-- "Zero chance that Rafa losing this match!" tweets 1996 French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

-- Another marathon rally, this time of 21 strokes in the fourth game, as Nadal saves two break points.

-- Nadal grabs double break for 4-1 despite coming off the loser of a bruising 25-shot exchange.

-- Nadal wraps up the opener 6-2 in 49 minutes, ending Djokovic's run of 22 sets won.

-- Twelve months ago in their semi-final, however, Djokovic was also blitzed in the first before winning in four.

-- Winner of the opening set has gone on to win 50 of the previous 58 matches, tweets the ATP.

2nd set

-- A bewildered Djokovic is marooned behind the baseline and is broken in the first game. It's Nadal's third break of the contest. Coming into the quarter-final, the world number one had only been broken three times in 52 service games.

-- "If Nadal keeps playing like this, he may ask for the final to be a night match," 1991 and 1992 Roland Garros champion Jim Courier says on the Tennis Channel.

-- Incredibly, Nadal breaks again for 3-0 but Djokovic immediately retrieves one.

-- "Two great champions… crowd should show a little more respect," tweets Australian player John Millman in response to the familiar antipathy towards Djokovic.

-- An 18-minute game and Djokovic has pulled back both breaks for 3-3.

-- After two hours and 16 minutes, Djokovic levels the contest at a set apiece, 6-4.

-- "That was unexpected," tweets Kafelnikov.

3rd set

-- Nadal breaks again in the opening game and backs it up with hold for 2-0.

-- For the third consecutive set, the 13-time champion nails a double break and stretches out for a 4-1 lead.

-- Clock ticks past midnight in a chilly Paris -- and May becomes June -- as Nadal holds for 5-1 on his way to a 6-2 set and a 15th French Open semi-final is within sight.

4th set

-- Djokovic down and out? Hardly. The defending champion races into a 4-1 lead.

-- "Impressive scheduling of the Rafa Novak epic. 8:45pm start time for a best of 5 set match involving two of the three greatest players ever to pick up a racket. Oh tennis stop doing it to yourself," tweets Britain's Jamie Murray, echoing many people's frustrations.

-- In the ninth game, Nadal saves two set points, breaks for 4-5 and holds for 5-5.

-- Four hours gone, and fourth set heads into a tiebreak.

-- Nadal, with the crowd behind him, pulls away to a 6/1 lead in the breaker.

-- Djokovic saves three match points but Nadal prevails after 4 hours and 12 minutes of thrilling action and will face Alexander Zverev for a place in the final.

dj/jc

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