Djokovic ‘cleared out of the way’ for Nadal says host
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Rafael Nadal celebrates his 36th birthday today (Friday) as he goes head-to-head with Alexander Zverev in the French Open semi-finals. But Nadal is still two years away from breaking Roger Federer’s Roland Garros record after the Swiss superstar faced him in the last four of the tournament in 2019 at the grand old age of 37 years and nine months.
Nadal is one of the best players to ever play tennis and has won a record-breaking 21 Grand Slam titles. A staggering 13 of those victories have come at the French Open, with the Spaniard dominating the Paris tournament time after time.
And he booked his place in the semi-finals once again after getting the better of long-term foe Novak Djokovic earlier this week. But if Nadal wants to beat Federer’s record, he would have to wait until 2024.
Nadal will turn 38 during that edition of the French Open and would become the second oldest semi-finalist in Roland Garros history after Pancho Gonzales, who reached the last four of the tournament as a 40-year-old way back in 1968.
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American Gonzales had been semi-retired for a number of years when he entered the 1968 French Open. But he beat the defending champion Roy Emerson in the quarter-finals to set up a last-four showdown with Rod Laver. Laver ultimately came out on top before losing in the final to fellow Australian Ken Rosewall.
Nadal has struggled with injury problems in recent years but has illustrated his desire to be the greatest player in tennis history by returning to fitness and producing some of the best form of his life this year.
In January, the veteran overturned a two-set deficit in the Australian Open final to defeat Daniil Medvedev and lift the trophy. That victory moved him ahead of Djokovic and Federer in the men’s all-time Grand Slam leaderboard. And he could go two-clear of his rivals if he can land this year’s French Open.
Nadal is the overwhelming favourite to win in Paris following his fine run of form. And he insists he will be ready for his encounter with Zverev, despite an “emotional” night against Djokovic in the quarters.
“In the end it has been a very emotional night for me,” Nadal said after dispatching the Serbian. “I am still playing for nights like today. But it is just a quarter-finals match. So I just gave myself a chance to be back on court in two days, play another semi-final here at Roland Garros – [it] means a lot to me.
“If I am not playing good or if I am losing in that semi-final match, it’s not going to be because I’m not gonna be focused on that semi-final match. I am not the kind of guy and player that emotionally goes high and low. I am very stable, I think, emotionally.”
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