French Open: Nadal vows to fight ‘big challenge’ against Djokovic

Rafael Nadal (ESP) wears a new bandana on the eighth day of the French Open at the Stade Roland-Garros as his match against Felix Agar-Aliasime (CAN) changes.  Compulsory Credit: Susan Mulane - USA Today Sports

Rafael Nadal wears a new bandana on the eighth day of the French Open at the Roland-Garos in Stade, changing the timing of his match against Felix Agar-Aliasime (CAN). (Susan Mulane – USA Today Sports)

PARIS – Rafa Nadal understands that beating Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the French Open on Tuesday will be a “big challenge” for him but the 13-time winner has vowed not to back down from the fight against world number one.

Nadal won the French Open for four years in a row before losing to eventual champion Djokovic in the semifinals last year – the third time he has lost to a clay court major since his debut in 2005.

The pair and Djokovic had 58 career-high matches in top form at this year’s tournament, not missing a single set in their four rounds.

Asked what he would have to do to win his next match against Djokovic, Nadal said: “I don’t know 100%, because I didn’t have a close Test against him, because my last match against him was here last year.

“I haven’t played a match like this in the last three months, so it’s going to be a big challenge for me,” he said after winning a five-set thriller against Canadian ninth seed Felix Agar-Aliasim.

“Perhaps he (Djokovic) will be confident. I know my condition, and I accept it well. I will fight for it. “

A well-known Real Madrid supporter, Nadal spent a joyous night on Saturday as he took part in his first Champions League final at the Stade de France in northern Paris and saw the Spanish club win their 14th European title.

However, he did not attend the celebration later to avoid going to bed too late.

Nadal and Djokovic arrive in Paris opposite Claycourt Major.

Although the Serbs looked in top form during their Rome win, Nadal suffered from chronic leg problems and lost to Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals in Madrid before losing to Denis Shapovalov in the third round of the Rome Masters.

“I can’t complain much,” said Nadal, 38, on Friday. “I am in the quarter-finals of Roland Garros. Two weeks and a half ago… I didn’t even know if I could stay here.

“And to be honest, every match I’ve played here, I don’t know if this will be my last match at Roland Garros in my tennis career. I have that condition now.

“I’m trying to enjoy as much as I can and to fight as hard as I can to keep playing tennis and live up to Roland Garros’ dream of returning to the very advanced round of playing against the world number one.

“I hope I can give myself a chance to play at the highest level and then let’s see.”


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