French Open

Nadal vows to fight in ‘big challenge’ against Djokovic

Nadal vows to fight in ‘big challenge’ against Djokovic

KING OF CLAY. Rafael Nadal faces a stiff challenge in his bid to reclaim the French Open throne.

Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Rafael Nadal eyes redemption against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who snapped his streak of four straight French Open titles last year

PARIS, France – Rafael Nadal understands it will be a “big challenge” for him to beat Novak Djokovic in their French Open quarterfinal, but the 13-time winner vowed not to shy away from a fight against the world No. 1.

Nadal had won the French Open four years in a row before losing to eventual champion Djokovic in the semifinals last year – just the third time he had been beaten at the clay court major since his debut in 2005.

That was also the last of the 58 career showdowns between the pair and Djokovic has looked in peak form at this year’s tournament, having not dropped a set in his four rounds.

When asked what he needed 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 last year here.”

“I didn’t play this kind of match for the last three months, so gonna be a big challenge for me,” he said after winning a five-set thriller against Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.

“Probably he (Djokovic) will be confident. I know how my situation is, and I accept it well. I’m gonna fight for it.”

A well-known Real Madrid fan, Nadal had a happy night on Saturday when he attended his first Champions League final at the Stade de France in northern Paris and watched the Spanish club win their 14th European title.

But he did not join the celebrations afterwards to avoid going to bed too late.

Nadal and Djokovic arrived in Paris with contrasting buildups to the clay court major.

While the Serb looked in top form during his Rome triumph, Nadal was troubled by a chronic foot problem and lost to Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid quarterfinals before losing to Denis Shapovalov in the third round of the Rome Masters.

“I can’t complain much,” said Nadal, who will turn 36 on Friday. “I am in quarterfinals of Roland Garros. Two weeks and a half ago … I even didn’t know if I would be able to be here.”

“And being honest, every match that I play here, I don’t know if it’s gonna be my last match here in Roland Garros in my tennis career. That’s my situation now.”

“I am just trying to enjoy as much as possible and fight as much as I can to keep living the dream that is to keep playing tennis and be back in a very advanced round of Roland Garros, playing against the world No. 1.”

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

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