By Alberto Amalfi | Monday, May 30, 2022
Pushed to a fifth set for just the third time at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal showed the power of perseverance.
Nadal fought with ferocity to out-duel Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in 4 hour, 21-minute slugfest that sent the Grand Slam king into a blockbuster quarterfinal clash vs. rival Novak Djokovic.
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History is on the line as Djokovic is aiming to defend Roland Garros and win his 21st Grand Slam crown to equal Nadal’s men’s major mark. Nadal is bidding to capture a record-extending 14th Roland Garros title, which would put him halfway to the calendar Grand Slam.
Auger-Aliassime, who is coached by Toni Nadal, Rafa’s uncle and original coach, says his heart is with Nadal, but his head suggests Djokovic, who has not surrendered a set, will have the edge as the fresher player.
US Open semifinalist Auger-Aliassime said it will take “a monumental effort” for Nadal to win the quarterfinal and take the title given his foot injury and the fact he’s coming off a draining four hour, 21-minute battle.
“Well, I wish Rafa the very best, I admire him greatly in everything that he’s done,” Auger-Aliassime said. “He’s somebody who I really like, and so I wish him the very best for the next match.
“But then I think that he also knows that it’s going to be difficult. We played for a long time today and it’s still the quarterfinals and afterwards there’s still two more matches to win to win the tournament. Rafa is coming here to win the tournament. So as I said, I really wish him the very best, but it will be a monumental effort for him, I think, to win.”
The top-seeded Djokovic, who defeated Nadal at Roland Garros last year, owns a 30-28 edge head-to-head over Nadal.
“But as he and Novak have always done, they will give it their all right through to the end and it will be a great battle,” Auger-Aliassime said.
Photo credit: Christopher Levy