Novak Djokovic's classy act after Rafa Nadal loss: 'A great champion'

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Novak Djokovic heaped praise on Rafa Nadal after the Spaniard's epic French Open quarter-final victory. Pic: Getty
Novak Djokovic heaped praise on Rafa Nadal after the Spaniard's epic French Open quarter-final victory. Pic: Getty

Novak Djokovic heaped praise on his great rival Rafael Nadal after going down to Spaniard in a pulsating French Open quarter-final.

Nadal kept his quest for a record-extending 22nd grand slam singles title alive after knocking out the 2021 French Open champion 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6 (7-4).

'PATHETIC': Novak Djokovic's telling act amid ugly French Open drama

'IT'S A JOKE': John McEnroe rips Nadal during Djokovic clash

'MY GOD': Camila Giorgi's father caught in the act at French Open

The 13-time Roland Garros winner needed more than four hours to conquer his great rival and set up a showdown with Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals.

Earlier, Zverev beat a fellow top-10 player in a grand slam for the first time in a dozen attempts, overcoming Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz.

The World No.3 won their pulsating quarter-final 6-4 6-4 4-6 7-6 (9-7) in three hours 18 minutes.

The match between Nadal and Djokovic began a little past 9pm Paris time on Tuesday night and concluded 12 minutes after 1am Wednesday.

Nadal ended the top-seeded Djokovic's bid for a second consecutive title at the French Open and made sure the Serb remains behind him in the grand slam count with 20.

Meeting for the 59th time, Nadal's win means he now trails Djokovic 29-30 in their head-to-head battles.

Speaking after the disappointment of his defeat, Djokovic showed class and humility in his praise for Nadal.

“Congratulations to Nadal. He was a better player I think in important moments,” Djokovic said in his post-match press conference.

“[He] started very well. I didn't start so great, 2-6, 0-3, double break down. I was gaining momentum as I was coming back in the second set, managed to win the second set, and I thought, I'm back in the game.

“But then he had another two, three fantastic games at the beginning of the third. He was just able to take his tennis to another level in those, particularly moments at the beginning of all sets except the fourth…. he showed why he's a great champion.

"Staying there mentally tough and finishing the match the way he did... congrats to him and his team. No doubt he deserved it.”

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 31: Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic of Serbia during day 10 of the French Open 2022, second tennis Grand Slam of the year at Stade Roland Garros on May 31, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 31: Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic of Serbia during day 10 of the French Open 2022, second tennis Grand Slam of the year at Stade Roland Garros on May 31, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

Djokovic - who was booed by the crowd throughout the contest - lamented the fact he squandered a 5-2 lead in the fourth set, as Nadal stormed back to take the match.

“I had my chances. I had my chances in the fourth [set],” a sombre Djokovic admitted.

“Served for the set, couple of set points. Just one or two shots could have taken me into a fifth. Then it's really anybody's match.”

“I gave my best. I know I could have played better. “I'm proud of fighting and staying until the last shot. As I said, I lost to a better player today. Had my chances. Didn't use them. That's it. Over four hours' battle and I have to accept this defeat.”

Rafa Nadal sets up semi-final against Alexander Zverev

Having already survived a five-set thriller against Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime in the previous round, Nadal, backed by a partisan crowd, found the resources to end it in four sets despite being a break down in the fourth.

The Spaniard, who turns 36 on Friday, improved to 110-3 all-time at Roland Garros. Two of those losses came against Djokovic, including in last year's semi-finals.

German Zverev raced to a two-set lead with Alcaraz, also on Court Philippe-Chatrier, making a string of unforced errors. But then the sun dipped behind the stands and the 19-year-old woke up, taking the third and holding set point in a gripping fourth-set tiebreak.

Zverev, however, saved that point before winning on his second match point.

"I knew I had to play my best all match," Zverev, who lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the 2021 semi-final, said.

"I am extremely happy I won the tiebreak. The match was turning his way. I told him at the net he will win this tournament. I hope I can win it before he starts beating us all."

The result ended the Spaniard's 14-match unbeaten streak and left him to reflect on how to do better next time.

"The difference between the other tournaments and a grand slam, you have time to come back," Alcaraz, who also reached the US Open quarter-finals last year, said.

"But at the same time it is tougher, because is tough to keep the focus, keep the level during three, four, five hours in a grand slam. I would say that's the difference.

"I have to take the lesson. I mean, I have to improve to the next grand slam or next matches. But I would say I'm not far away to reach a semi-final or be able to win a grand slam."

with agencies

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting