French Open: Nadal edges Auger-Aliassime in five-set thriller to set up Djokovic showdown

By Sports Desk May 29, 2022

Rafael Nadal set up the blockbuster quarter-final against Novak Djokovic that the French Open has been waiting for, but he was pushed all the way by Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The 13-time champion emerged as a winner by a 3-6 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 scoreline in four hours and 21 minutes of dramatic duelling on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Those inside the stadium court roared with the fervour of football supporters as Nadal crossed the winning line, a day after watching his beloved Real Madrid beat Liverpool in the Champions League final at the Stade de France.

If defending champion Djokovic watched this, he would have observed chinks in the Nadal armour, but the great Spaniard's commitment to his craft remains resolute. He hates losing, could not abide the thought of tumbling out in the fourth round, and duly pulled out every stop to avoid that happening.

Looking ahead to the tussle with Djokovic, Nadal said afterwards: "I don't know what will happen, but the only thing I can guarantee is I am going to fight until the end."

Nadal dropped serve in the fourth game of the match and again in the sixth to trail 5-1, and he began the recovery from there, snatching a break back.

Although he had been unable to retrieve the opening set, Nadal was suddenly dialled in. At 35, coming up for 36 in the coming week, he is 14 years Auger-Aliassime's senior and has a dodgy foot, but Nadal's movement was somehow still that of a young man.

From 3-3 in the second set, Nadal won six of the next seven games to take command, soon snatching a second break in set three as he accelerated away from a player who until this year had never won a match at Roland Garros.

Making it to the fourth round signifies progress on Auger-Aliassime's part but facing the master of these courts was always a tall order. It was to the ninth seed's enormous credit that he gave the match a fresh twist by breaking twice early in the fourth set and forcing the decider.

At 4-3 in the fifth, on serve, Nadal had a break-point opportunity and his tiring legs carried him to stunning heights when he moved Auger-Aliassime into trouble at the net with a delicious, dipping backhand, and then dashed towards the net to dink a winner out of his opponent's reach.

This time Auger-Aliassime did not come back. On match point in the next game, Nadal sent a forehand into an open court after manoeuvring Auger-Aliassime out of position once more, and it brought the house down. He now has 109 wins from 112 singles matches at this tournament.

Data slam: Nadal goes the distance, finds a way

Only three times has Nadal played a fifth set at the French Open, and he has won them all, defeating John Isner in the 2011 first round and Djokovic in the 2013 semi-finals, and now Auger-Aliassime.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Nadal – 47/41
Auger-Aliassime – 50/54

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 3/4
Auger-Aliassime – 7/4

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 6/22
Auger-Aliassime – 4/9

Related items

  • Bencic fights back to beat Bouchard as Ostapenko and Raducanu fall Bencic fights back to beat Bouchard as Ostapenko and Raducanu fall

    Belinda Bencic fought back to defeat Eugenie Bouchard in an Ostrava Open first-round contest that took over two and a half hours to settle.

    Bouchard took the first set, but Bencic came from behind to advance with a 6-7 (7-9) 6-1 6-4 victory on Tuesday.

    Eighth seed Jelena Ostapenko, runner-up in the Korea Open, suffered a premature exit as Aliaksandra Sasnovich consigned the former French Open champion to a 6-2 6-2 defeat.

    Emma Raducanu also went out in straight sets, with Daria Kasatkina beating the 2021 US Open champion 7-5 6-4.

    Catherine McNally blitzed to a 6-1 6-2 victory over Anna Blinkova, while Alycia Parks progressed past Karolina Pliskova to secure the first top-20 win of her career.

    Top seed Ons Jabeur swept aside Ann Li with relative ease in a 6-2 6-3 victory at the Jasmin Open to reach the last 16.

    Veronika Kudermetova, the second seed, breezed past Varvara Gracheva with a commanding 6-1 6-0 win.

    Anastasia Potapova, Petra Martic, Magdalena Frech and Harriet Dart were among the other victors.

  • Alcaraz stunned by Goffin at Astana Open Alcaraz stunned by Goffin at Astana Open

    Carlos Alcaraz was dumped out of the Astana Open in the first round on Tuesday, suffering a surprise 7-5 6-3 defeat to David Goffin.

    Goffin entered the draw as a lucky loser after squandering two match points to lose his final qualification match against Luca Nardi on Sunday, but he produced a fine display to see off the world number one in one hour and 46 minutes. 

    The Belgian had to rediscover his composure to take the opener after throwing away a 5-2 lead, but ultimately deserved his straight-sets win over the US Open champion. 

    Speaking on court after his victory, Goffin said: "I always believe that I have the level to cause some trouble against those guys. 

    "When you play against the world number one on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don't have any choice."

    Stefanos Tsitsipas was the only other seed in action in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, and he advanced to the round of 16 by beating home favourite Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 6-4.

    The Tokyo Open also lost its top seed, as Casper Ruud fell to a 6-3 6-3 loss to Jaume Munar, who claimed his first top-10 win since beating Alexander Zverev in 2019.

    But the likes of Borna Coric and Nick Kyrgios fared better, claiming straight-sets wins over Thanasi Kokkinakis and Tseng Chun-hsin, respectively.

    Wimbledon runner-up Kyrgios only dropped four further points on his serve after being forced to save a break point in his opening service game, racing to a dominant 6-3 6-1 win.

    Elsewhere, eighth seed Dan Evans fought back to beat Radu Albot 6-7 (3-7) 6-1 6-4, and Alex de Minaur lost 6-3 6-2 to Kwon Soon-woo. 

  • Kyrgios' assault case adjourned until February on mental health grounds Kyrgios' assault case adjourned until February on mental health grounds

    Nick Kyrgios' lawyers will apply for the tennis star's assault charge to be dismissed on mental health grounds, an Australian court was told on Tuesday.

    Kyrgios was charged in July of this year in relation to the alleged assault of a former partner in January 2021.

    The 27-year-old, who has enjoyed a fine season in 2022, reaching the final of Wimbledon and the last eight at the US Open, was not present for a hearing in Canberra on Tuesday, as he features in the Japan Open.

    Michael Kukulies-Smith, who is representing Kyrgios, asked for the case to be adjourned so forensic mental health reports could be prepared.

    The case was duly adjourned to February 3, 2023 by magistrate Glenn Theakston. It is then expected Kyrgios' legal representatives will apply to have the case dismissed, with Kukulies-Smith stating he was making the application having reviewed Kyrgios' "medical history since 2015, including public disclosures of his mental health struggles".

    Australian law dictates that magistrates have the power to dismiss a charge if they believe an accused person is mentally impaired, and that dealing with a charge in such a manner would be of benefit to both the defendant and the community.

    Kyrgios could face two years in prison should he be handed a maximum sentence.

     

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.