Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tennis superhero man of clay

Nadal knocks off Djokovic, earns shot at eighth French Open title

  • Print

PARIS -- His dramatic and delightful French Open semifinal was 4 1/2 hours old -- and 14 games into the fifth set -- when Rafael Nadal raced from the net to the baseline to retrieve Novak Djokovic's seemingly unreachable lob.

Many players wouldn't have bothered to give chase, let alone attempt what Nadal actually accomplished: With his back to the court, he somehow sent a lob the other way by flipping the ball between his legs.

Perhaps surprised the 11-stroke point was not already his, Djokovic flubbed an easy overhead smash into the net. Two games later, Nadal flicked another, more traditional, defensive lob, and Djokovic sailed his response five feet long, the earlier mistake no doubt on his mind.

Three points later, the blink-and-you-miss-something match was over.

In a contest chock full of lengthy exchanges, moments of mastery and occasional lapses by both men, seven-time French Open champion Nadal returned to the final with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7 victory over the No. 1-ranked Djokovic on Friday.

By the finish, it was not just a test of skill but also of stamina and perseverance, two qualities Nadal possesses in abundance.

"This one is a special one," Nadal said. "If we talk about everything that makes a match big, today we had all of these ingredients."

Except, of course, a silver cup for the winner and a runnerup tray for the loser. Those will be on offer Sunday, when Nadal faces David Ferrer in an all-Spanish final with a chance to become the only man with eight titles at any Grand Slam tournament.

"When you have a win and you have the trophy, it means more," said Nadal, who will be seeking his 12th major championship overall.

The fourth-seeded Ferrer reached his first Grand Slam final by defeating France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 7-6 (3), 6-2 Friday. The 31-year-old Ferrer, previously 0-5 in major semifinals, ended Tsonga's bid to give the host country its first male champion since Yannick Noah in 1983.

"I want to enjoy this moment," Ferrer said.

That's understandable, given not only that this is his 42nd appearance in a Grand Slam tournament but also that his record against is Nadal is 4-19.

Then again, 17 of those head-to-head matches came on clay, and no one has been able to withstand Nadal's relentless, will-sapping style on that surface. Nadal is 58-1 in his French Open career; the loss came to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009.

Nadal later said bad knees were partly to blame for that defeat. On Friday, he was wearing a thick strip of white tape below his left knee, which sidelined him for about seven months until February. Since returning, Nadal is 42-2 with six titles, reaching the finals of all nine tournaments he's entered.

"For us, it's really a miracle," said Toni Nadal, Rafael's uncle and coach.

At his best against the best of his era, Nadal is now 20-14 overall against Djokovic and 20-10 against 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.

"An unbelievable match to be part of, but all I can feel now is disappointment. That's it," said Djokovic, who lost to Nadal in last year's final and still needs a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam. "He showed the courage in the right moments and went for his shots... I congratulate him, because that's why he's a champion."

Djokovic's coach, Marian Vajda, was asked Friday whether there is any bigger challenge in tennis than facing Nadal on his preferred surface.

"I don't think so," Vajda said. "He's the King of Clay."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 8, 2013 C7

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Bombers look to snap two game slide vs. Montreal

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Carolyn Kavanagh(10) had this large dragonfly land on her while spending time at Winnetka Lake, Ontario. photo by Andrea Kavanagh (mom0 show us your summer winnipeg free press
  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Who has been the Bombers MVP so far this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google