Rafael Nadal defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime, 3-6 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3, to reach his 16th quarterfinal at Roland Garros. Nadal advanced to the last eight after four hours and 23 minutes on the Philippe Chatrier Court, setting up a clash with his long time rival Novak Djokovic.
The two had only met on one previous occasion, with the Spaniard getting the better at the Madrid Masters in 2019. This match, however, had slightly more flavor to it, with Nadal’s uncle and former coach Toni Nadal now part of Auger-Aliassime’s team.
Toni Nadal had made it clear that he would take a completely neutral stance in this match. He stated that he would not be giving his new player any advice before the contest, as well as not sitting in the Canadian’s box, opting for the front row instead.
Nadal was coming off the back of a late night on Saturday, after watching his beloved Real Madrid lift their 14th Champions League trophy at the Stade de France.
Auger-Aliassime took advantage of this, taking the first set in impressive fashion. This is only the 11th time Nadal has lost the opening set at Roland Garros.
The Spaniard responded well taking both the next two sets, showing that resilience that has led him to 13 grand slam titles in Paris.
Nadal would have run away with it from this point against many other opponents, but the Canadian showed why he intends to be a mainstay in the top ten of men’s tennis. Auger-Aliassime took the fourth set 6-3, serving very well on the pressure points, as he did all match.
In the end the 21-time Grand Slam champion had too much, displaying some of his trademark shots to improve his record at Roland Garros to 109-3.
This is only the third time Nadal has played five sets in the French capital. The other two times were in victories over John Isner in 2011 and Djokovic in 2013.
It is Djokovic who the Spaniard will play next, in what will be their 59th meeting. The Serbian has the slight advantage in the head-to-head with 30 victories, the last coming in last year’s Roland Garros semi-final.
The World #1 came through a much more comfortable match, beating Diego Schwartzman in straight sets. Djokovic will be the fresher of the two, but the crowd will heavily be on the side of Nadal, so we are set for another enthralling battle on Tuesday.
Main Photo from Getty.