French Open's shock move against Rafa Nadal for Novak Djokovic clash

·Sports Editor
·5-min read
Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, pictured here at the French Open.
Rafa Nadal will play Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals at the French Open. Image: Getty

Rafa Nadal has copped a massive blow ahead of his quarter-final showdown with Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros, with French Open officials scheduling the match for Tuesday's night session.

Nadal has been vocal of his dislike of the night session, with organisers scheduling him in the daytime for all of his previous matches this year.

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However the 21-time grand slam champion was finally placed in the dreaded night session against Djokovic, with organisers fearful of being accused of bias if he wasn't.

The night session, for which Amazon Prime has exclusive broadcasting rights in France, starts at 9pm local time and was introduced for the first time at the 2021 edition of the clay-court major.

"I don't like night sessions on clay. I am very clear with that," Nadal said last week.

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

Organisers had granted Nadal's wish to play in the daytime for the first four rounds, but they copped heat from young Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in the lead-up to the scheduling of the quarter-finals.

The teenage phenom said it would be unfair if he was forced to play another night match and Nadal wasn't.

"Honestly, it wouldn't seem fair to me. I've already played twice in the evening," the 19-year-old said.

"I'm not saying that it bothers me to play in the evening, but obviously I have less recovery time, if I finish very late all the time.

"When we finish at midnight, with all that comes with it - dinner, physio, trying to come down in terms of adrenaline - it's harder to recover.

"If I play a third time in the evening, honestly it seems unfair to me."

Djokovic has also expressed his preference to play in the daytime.

"Today I'd rather play day than playing 9pm. Conditions are different today. It's colder, slower," he said.

"I historically played very well and won a lot of matches under the lights on different slams, particularly in Australia."

"We do have requests, but those requests are not always accepted."

Rafa Nadal's coach lashes out at scheduling decision

Nadal's coach Carlos Moya later slammed the scheduling decision, saying organisers should have respected the wishes of the 13-time French Open champion.

“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. He is part of the history of Roland Garros.

"We know that nobody is bigger than [the tournament], nobody is bigger than the grand slam, but in the end, it is a question of business and we understand that.”

Rafa Nadal, pictured here celebrating after beating Felix Auger-Aliassime at the French Open.
Rafa Nadal celebrates after beating Felix Auger-Aliassime at the French Open. (Photo by Ibrahim Ezzat/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Eurosport commentator Alex Corretja explained how the decision will adversely affect Nadal.

“Of course Rafa’s game is not as effective because usually, he likes to hit the ball with a lot of spin, meaning that the ball will go very high," he said.

“But if he plays at night, the ball might bounce a little bit lower, and for Novak’s game, [that is] better.

"Obviously, the conditions are the same for everyone, but it depends on your game.

"It can suit your game more or less, and that’s why for Rafa’s game, it is always better when it’s sunny.”

Mats Wilander added: "The surface - clay - becomes a little moist, and the tennis ball picks up the moisture, [becoming] heavier, much harder to spin.

"Of course, the night session at the US Open is different too because of the temperature changes and humidity, but the court itself doesn’t change as much, of course a cement hard court.

"When it’s hot, it’s bouncier than when it’s cold, but this change is way more, and it’s tricky for players."

with agencies

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