Rafael Nadal claimed the 14th French Open title of his astonishing career and vowed he would "keep fighting" to earn even more success.

There had been speculation during this Roland Garros fortnight that Nadal could retire if he landed the trophy, a record-extending 22nd men's singles grand slam.

Yet the 36-year-old, who has won two majors this year despite being hampered by a long-bothersome foot problem, is determined to play on until his body refuses.

He thrashed Casper Ruud 6-3 6-3 6-0, reigning in Paris once again, some 17 years after his first triumph. Watched by the king of Spain, Felipe VI, Nadal was again sensational on the red clay, becoming the oldest champion.

"For me personally, it is very difficult to describe the feelings that I have," Nadal said.

"I for sure never believed I'd be here at 36 being competitive again, playing in the most important court of my career once again. It means a lot of energy to try to keep going."

Nadal told the crowd: "It's unbelievable to play here with your support. I don't know what can happen in the future, but I'm going to keep fighting to try to keep going."

Addressing Ruud, Norway's first men's grand slam singles finalist, Nadal said: "I want to congratulate you for an amazing career you are having, and this two weeks is a very important step forward, so I am very, very happy for you and for all your family. I'm very happy for you and wish you all the very best for the future."

Nadal praised his family and support team for giving him strength when times have been tough. He looked in intense pain recently in Rome, but Nadal has come back to take his career to new heights.

"It's completely amazing the things that are happening this year," said Nadal, who won the Australian Open in January. "Without you, nothing of this will be possible without any doubt.

"Especially in the very tough moments that we went through in terms of injuries. If I don't have a great support from the team – family, everybody that has been next to me – nothing of this would be possible because I would be retired much before, so many, many thanks for everything."

As Nadal considers whether he could push for a calendar grand slam by targeting Wimbledon and the US Open, Ruud will reflect on a tough first grand slam final experience.

Ruud idolised Nadal from a young age and in recent years has trained at the Spaniard's Mallorca academy.

Runner-up Ruud said: "The first thing and the most important thing is to congratulate Rafa. It's your 14th time here, a 22nd all-around in grand slams. 

"We all know what a champion you are, and today I got to feel how it is to play you in a final, and it's not easy, and I'm not the first victim. I know there have been many before."

At that point, the crowd bellowed "Ruuuuudddd", the shout that sounds like a boo but is wholly affectionate. They have taken Ruud to their hearts, and once Nadal retires he may well have his own glory days on the Paris clay.

"To you, Rafa, your team, your family, you've taken me into your academy with open arms," Ruud added. "We all hope you will continue for some more time."

Rafael Nadal emphatically sealed a record-extending 14th French Open title with an imperious straight-sets victory over Casper Ruud on Sunday.

Fifth seed Nadal was relentless as he took his record tally of grand slam titles to 22 with another domineering display, beating Ruud 6-3 6-3 6-0 to reign yet again on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Amid uncertainty over how long the 36-year-old Spaniard will be able to continue playing, he did not resemble a man who has been struggling with a foot injury as he outclassed Ruud in the Norwegian's first major final.

Ruud was no match for his idol, who won 11 games in a row to secure back-to-back grand slam triumphs and maintain his perfect record in championship matches at Roland Garros.

Nadal struck an early blow when he broke with a majestic cross-court forehand winner on the run for a 2-0 lead, but he gifted the eighth seed an immediate break back with a couple of double faults before missing a forehand.

Ruud was unable to build on that, spraying a wild forehand long and seeing another bounce before crashing into the net to go a break down at 3-1.

Nadal darted in to put away a backhand winner to go 5-2 up and fired down three excellent serves in a row to wrap up the set.

Ruud got himself out of a hole by saving three break points before holding in the first game of the second set and the sprightly Scandinavian broke to love for a 3-1 lead, Nadal ending a poor service game with a double fault.

There was a sense of deja vu when Nadal broke straight back, letting out a roar after Ruud looped a backhand into the tramlines and the Mallorca native led 4-3 when a lob from the underdog landed long.

Nadal was shifting through the gears, disdainfully swatting away forehand winners to get a packed crowd purring as he won a fifth game in a row to take the second set.

A prowling Nadal continued to dominate, racing in to put away another winner for a 2-0 lead in the third set and showing no mercy on a player who has trained at his academy but was not made to feel so welcome by one of the all-time greats in Paris.

Ruud had no answer to the brilliance of Nadal as he was swept aside in the most one-sided of third sets, the champion putting him out of his misery with a backhand winner.

Rafael Nadal versus Casper Ruud has the air of one of sport's great mismatches ahead of the French Open title match.

Nadal's record at Roland Garros is spectacularly intimidating as he bids for a record-extending 14th title on the Paris clay, having won all 13 of his past finals.

In sharp contrast, Ruud has never played a grand slam final. Nor until this week had he played a semi-final at this level, or a quarter-final.

Nadal will be chasing a 22nd title at the majors on Sunday, and Ruud a first; and yet there are factors that offer the underdog hope, not least the fact the favourite is pushing his body into a new fresh hell every time he steps onto court.

Coach Carlos Moya told ATPTour.com that Nadal, hampered by a long-bothersome foot problem, was carrying "a lot of wear and tear".

"But it's the final push," said Moya, anticipating one last gargantuan effort from the man who turned 36 this week.

"So far, Rafa has done an astonishing job of surviving without playing his best tennis."

Ahead of what could be a far tighter final than Saturday's one-sided women's showpiece, Stats Perform assesses the form and the stakes affecting both players.


One last swing at glory for Nadal?

It has long been the case that Nadal has nothing left to prove. Yet it is the Spaniard's instinct to want to push himself to new heights, and his quarter-final win over Novak Djokovic encapsulated that drive.

"All the sacrifices and all the things that I need to go through to try to keep playing really makes sense when you enjoy moments like I'm enjoying in this tournament," Nadal said after booking his place in the final. He was the beneficiary of Alexander Zverev's injury-forced retirement in the semi-finals, and now a first career match against Ruud awaits.

Should Nadal win, at the age of 36 years and two days, he would become the oldest men's singles champion at Roland Garros in history, surpassing his compatriot Andres Gimeno, who was 34 years, 10 months and one day old when he captured the 1972 title.

No other man in history has reached double figures for titles at a single grand slam, with Novak Djokovic's nine Australian Open wins the next most in a major. Across his 13 previous Roland Garros finals, Nadal has dropped only seven sets.

Given his injury problems, it is highly possible this will prove to be Nadal's final French Open. He has an astonishing overall record of 332-34 in sets won and lost at Roland Garros, emerging victorious from 111 of his 114 matches.

If Ruud looks too closely at Nadal's career numbers, they might become dizzying. The veteran has won 62 of his 91 titles on clay, once enjoyed an 81-match winning streak on the surface (2005-07) and has spent a record 871 consecutive weeks inside the ATP top 10, from 2005 to the present day.

He has never won the Australian Open and French Open in the same year, so that is now achievable, given his success at Melbourne Park in January, when he nudged one clear of Djokovic and Roger Federer on the all-time list of most men's singles slam wins.

"We haven't spoken about number 22," said Moya. "Obviously, it's on the horizon, but that would add pressure to Rafa. It's not necessary."


Would it be Ruud to crash the party?

Nadal said Ruud's run has been "not a surprise at all", and there were some experts who fancied the Norwegian to come through the bottom half of the draw before the tournament began, albeit with most making Stefanos Tsitsipas a likelier finalist.

A curiosity is the fact Ruud has trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca since 2018, and he has often practised with Nadal. This, though, is their first encounter in competition. The last first-time meeting in a men's French Open final came in 1997 when Gustavo Kuerten beat Sergi Bruguera.

Ruud, 23, would be the youngest men's singles grand slam winner since 20-year-old Juan Martin del Potro beat Roger Federer in the 2009 US Open final. That was a sensation of a result, with the Argentinian ending Federer's five-year reign in New York, and Ruud may find some encouragement from such an upset.

Ruud leads the ATP Tour since the start of the 2020 season in clay-court wins (66), finals (nine) and titles (seven), yet all of his eight career titles have come at ATP 250 level, a relatively low tier of the professional game where the biggest names rarely compete.

He stepped up by reaching the final of the Miami Open, an ATP 1000 tournament, in April, but was beaten to the title by Carlos Alcaraz.

Sunday's challenger from Oslo, whose father and coach Christian Ruud was an ATP top-50 player in his mid-1990s prime, is a former junior world number one.

He has now become Norway's first grand slam finalist and must tackle arguably the most daunting challenge in the men's game.

Nadal said of Ruud on Friday: "I think in the academy we were able to help him a little bit. I like to see a good person achieving his dreams. I'm happy for him, I'm happy for his mom, dad.

"I know them very well. They are a super healthy family and great people. As always, I am super happy when I see these great people having success."

Nadal did not go on to say he would disbar Ruud from his academy should there be a shock outcome on Sunday.

Perhaps the thought of Ruud winning simply never crossed Nadal's mind.

Alexander Zverev is suspected to have suffered several torn ligaments during his French Open semi-final against Rafael Nadal on Friday.

The world number three's hopes of winning a first grand slam title at Roland Garros this year were ended when he rolled his ankle late in the second set on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Zverev was taken off the court in a wheelchair after his tournament came to a painful end in Paris.

The German will surely miss Wimbledon as he awaits confirmation of the extent of the damage he sustained.

He posted on Instagram: "Hey guys! I am now on my way back home. Based on the first medical checks, it looks like I have torn several lateral ligaments in my right foot.

"I will be flying to Germany on Monday to make further examinations and to determine the best and quickest way for me to recover.

"I want to thank everyone all over the world for the kind messages that I have received since yesterday. Your support means a lot to me right now!

"I will try to keep you updated as much as possible on further developments. See you next time @rolandgarros."

Nadal will attempt to win a record-extending 14th French Open title when he faces Casper Ruud on Sunday.

Alexander Zverev is awaiting news on the true severity of his "very serious" ankle injury, with the world number three's Wimbledon participation in doubt.

The 25-year-old withdrew from Friday's French Open semi-final against Rafael Nadal after rolling his ankle towards the end of the second set, which went to a tie-break.

Zverev, who lost a gruelling first set 7-6 (10-8), was helped from the clay in a wheelchair before returning on crutches to retire, ending his hopes of a second grand slam final.

And the German is now in a race against time to be ready for the next major of the year, with Wimbledon set to begin in a little over three weeks' time.

Providing an update on his injury on social media on Friday, Zverev said: "It was a very difficult moment for me today on the court.

"It was obviously a fantastic match until what happened, happened. It looks like I have a very serious injury. But the medical team and the doctors are still checking on it."

Zverev made an ideal start to his semi-final against Nadal by breaking his opponent's service in the first game, but the Spaniard hit back in the eighth game of the opening set.

Nadal eventually edged a competitive tie-break to conclude a 91-minute set, and both men continued to exchange blows in a just-as-tight second set that also went the distance.

However, Zverev's injury brought what was shaping up to be a classic semi-final to an early end, meaning a 14th Roland Garros final for Nadal on what was his 36th birthday.

Casper Ruud awaits Nadal in Sunday's final in Paris in what will be the first encounter between the pair after overcoming Marin Cilic 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-2 in the other semi-final.

"I want to congratulate Rafa, obviously," Zverev added in his social media post. 

"It's an incredible achievement, a 14th final, and hopefully he can go all the way and make some more history."

Casper Ruud knows he will have to play his "best tennis ever" if he is to have "any chance" against his idol Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.

Ruud defeated Marin Cilic 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-2 in his semi-final on Friday to join Nadal in the Roland Garros decider.

This will be Ruud's first grand slam final, while Nadal is preparing for his 30th – and 14th in Paris alone.

Each of the previous 13 on the red clay have ended in Nadal wins, and his opponent is well aware of the task before him.

"To play Rafa in a Roland Garros final is probably the greatest challenge there is in this sport," Ruud said. "I believe he's 13-0 in the finals, so that just shows that it might sound like an impossible task.

"But of course I will give it a shot like the other 13 people before me have done.

"It's obviously going to be tough. We all know what a great champion he is and how well he plays in the biggest moments and the biggest matches. I'm just going to try to enjoy it.

"I will be the underdog, and I will try to tonight and tomorrow night dream about great winners and unbelievable rallies, because that's what it's going to take if I want to have any chance, and I will need to play my best tennis ever.

"But I still have to believe that I can do it, and I think part of my game today was working very well. In the end, I was playing great in the third and fourth set."

Ruud is not shying away from the challenge, even if he is happy simply to join the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in playing Nadal in a final, describing it as "something I can always brag about after my career".

He added: "It would be nicer to be able to brag about the title as well after my career."

Ruud has never played Nadal on the ATP Tour, but that does not mean this is their first meeting, as the Norwegian was part of the Rafa Nadal Academy.

The pair have faced one another in private – not that those encounters can offer Ruud much encouragement.

"He pretty much has always beaten me," he said. "There's been some close sets, 7-6, 7-5, but it always goes his favour.

"But it's because we are playing in the academy and I want to be nice to him..."

Casper Ruud weathered an early storm as he saw off Marin Cilic and set up a shot at Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.

The Norwegian has this week become the first man from his country to reach a grand slam quarter-final, then he bettered that by advancing to the semi-finals, and now the final beckons after a 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-2 triumph.

A clay-court specialist, who has more match wins, finals and titles among ATP Tour players than anyone else since the start of the 2020 season, Ruud showed the expertise that could make him a handful for 13-time champion Nadal on Sunday. Ruud describes Nadal as his "idol".

This match was interrupted during the third set by a climate change activist who fastened herself to the net, but Ruud, who had forged ahead in the set, kept his head in the trying circumstances.

Cilic had made a strong start, but the 33-year-old Croatian's assault became less threatening as Ruud got a grip on proceedings. At 5-4 ahead in the second set, Ruud fell 0-40 behind on serve but retrieved that precarious situation in style, sealing the game and levelling the match with a marvellous backhand winner down the line.

Suddenly erratic, Cilic missed a routine smash to give Ruud a break point at the start of the third set, and although the server saved that one, another misfired overhead from the Croatian meant the game slipped away.

A delicious floated low backhand across court and out of Cilic's reach gave Ruud a double break, and he was not knocked out of his stride by the intervention of the activist, with the players briefly led off court.

The man from Oslo wrapped up the third and tore through the fourth set, serving out to love at the first time of asking, and now the ultimate challenge awaits.

Data slam: Ruud racing through the rounds

Ruud has become the first man since Sweden's Robin Soderling in 2009 to reach his first Roland Garros fourth round, quarter-final, semi-final and final in the same year. Soderling lost in straight sets to Nadal in the final.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Ruud – 41/21
Cilic – 51/56

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Ruud – 16/0
Cilic – 10/2

BREAK POINTS WON/LOST

Ruud – 5/15
Cilic – 2/9

Rafael Nadal says battling through the pain of his foot injury makes reaching his 14th French Open final even more enjoyable.

Nadal missed a part of the 2021 season with a foot problem that has hampered him throughout most of his career, but returned to win the Australian Open in January.

That made him a 21-time grand slam winner, a record in men's tennis, and he now aims for his 22nd major at Roland Garros – a venue where he is a 14-time champion.

Casper Ruud or Marin Cilic will be the Spaniard's opponent in Sunday's final in Paris, after Alexander Zverev retired almost two sets into a gruelling semi-final on Court Philippe-Chatrier against Nadal on Friday.

The 36-year-old, who celebrated his birthday with semi-final victory, was quick to express his well wishes for Zverev both on the court and later in a news conference, with the German suffering an ankle injury.

Nadal is the third player in the Open era to reach 30 or more grand slam finals, after Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic (both 31), and he believes playing through the pain has been worth it.

"I explained everything going through my mind after Rome, and nothing changed," Nadal told reporters. "At the same time, I was not very positive after that about my foot, but I was positive that I will be able to play here.

"I played, I fought I did all the things possible to give myself at least a chance to be where I am and happy of course to be able to give myself another chance to play here in the final of Roland Garros.

"That means a lot to me. All the sacrifices and all the things that I need to go through to try to keep playing, really makes sense when you enjoy moments like I'm enjoying in this tournament.

"If you like what you are doing, you keep going. If you like to go and play golf, you keep going to play golf. If I like to play tennis and if I can and I can handle to keep playing, I keep playing because I like what I do.

"If I am healthy enough to play, I like the competition. I like to play in the best stadiums in the world and feel competitive at my age still.

"That makes me feel in some way proud and happy about all the work that we did."

Nadal led Zverev 7-6 (10-8) 6-6 before the world number three had to retire, though the encounter had lasted for over three hours by that point.

It was the third time in as many matches that Nadal has toiled on the clay in Paris, having overcome Djokovic in four sets after defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime in a five-set thriller.

Nevertheless, Nadal assures he is fit and fighting in preparation for the showpiece as he aims for a 14th French Open triumph.

"Physically I'm okay. Normally my problem is not the physical performance," he added. "Of course today the conditions have been very hot, super humid.

"I know from experience that when these conditions happen, I suffer a bit more physically. It happened to me in Australia against [Denis] Shapovalov.

"Today was different, not that crazy but I was suffering. There was a lot of up-and-downs during the match, but a good level of tennis with great points."

Rafael Nadal advanced to the French Open final after Alexander Zverev suffered a horror injury blow almost two sets into a gruelling semi-final on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Zverev was helped from the clay in a wheelchair before returning on crutches to retire, having gone over on his ankle as he was taken to a second-set tie-break after Nadal claimed the first set 7-6 (10-8).

Having been out on court for over three hours despite not finishing two sets in a demanding encounter, Nadal secured a clash with either Casper Ruud or Marin Cilic in Sunday's final as he bids for a record-extending 14th Roland Garros title.

Zverev made an ideal start when breaking Nadal's service in the first game of the match, but Spain's king of clay hit back in the eighth game of the opener, eventually winning a fiercely competitive tie-break to conclude a draining 91-minute set.

Nadal struggled to build on that success in a bizarre opening to the second set, which opened with four consecutive breaks as the Spaniard failed to win a single first-serve point until his third service game.

Having been broken again to go 4-2 down, Nadal made light of any suggestion he was feeling the effects of his four-set quarter-final win over Novak Djokovic, roaring back with another break as Zverev cut a frustrated figure, arguing with the umpire after being warned for shouting an obscenity.

Worse was to come for Zverev during the exact point at which Nadal forced another tie-break, with the third seed left crying out on the clay after appearing to roll his ankle while chasing the Spaniard's forehand.

Having been helped into a wheelchair to exit the court, a distraught Zverev returned on crutches to thank the umpire after a short interlude. That meant Nadal progressed to his 14th Roland Garros final on his 36th birthday, although not in the circumstances he might have imagined, and the 21-time grand slam winner cut a subdued figure as he wished his opponent a speedy recovery.

"It's very tough and very sad for him, he was playing an unbelievable tournament, he's a very good colleague on the tour," Nadal said of Zverev.

"I know how much he's fighting to win a grand slam, and for this moment he was very unlucky. The only thing I am sure of is that he's going to win not one but many more. So, I wish him all the best and a fast recovery.

"It was a super tough match, three hours and we didn't even finish the second set. It's one of the biggest challenges on the tour today to play against him when he's playing at such a high level.

"For me, everybody knows, to be in the final one more time, it's a dream."

Data Slam: 30-up for Nadal as the king of clay closes on another success

Nadal's victory, while arriving in less-than-ideal circumstances, made him just the third player in the Open Era to have reached 30 grand slam finals. Nadal has won each of his previous 13 Roland Garros finals, though he still trails both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer for overall major finals (both 31).

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Nadal 21/26
Zverev 40/47

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Nadal 3/1
Zverev 5/8

BREAK POINTS WON

Nadal 5/11
Zverev 5/8

Andy Murray says he can draw inspiration from Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic's impressive French Open form as he eyes a resurgence at Wimbledon.

Nadal and Cilic are in the semi-finals at Roland Garros, and could well book themselves an appearance in the final against each other on Friday.

Having beat Dutchman Gijs Brouwer 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-3) to book a quarter-final spot in the Surbiton Trophy this week, Murray admits he can look to the pair for proof of longevity.

"I can take some inspiration from those guys," the 35-year-old stated after reaching the last eight in London.

"I don't know whether it's Rafa's last run or not because he seems to be doing physically really well during the event, so I hope he's able to continue going for a while.

"Cilic as well, he's someone I grew up with in the juniors and played a lot with. He has just made the semis of the French for the first ever time at 33 and is playing really well."

Having sat out the clay courts at Roland Garros to prepare on grass for Wimbledon, Murray will hope a deep run in the Surbiton Trophy can prepare him well.

"I have done a lot of training, practised a lot, so now I need the matches and hopefully I'll get a bunch of matches to get me ready for Wimbledon," he added.

Rafael Nadal has declared he does not want this to be his final French Open.

The announcement from Nadal seems to put to bed the theory that he could announce an immediate retirement if he wins the title for a 14th time at Roland Garros on Sunday.

Nadal, who takes on Alexander Zverev in Friday's semi-finals, is battling a long-troubling foot problem in Paris and remarkably saw off Novak Djokovic in an electrifying showdown on Tuesday night.

His pain threshold appears to be far beyond that of the average human, and Nadal has brought a doctor with him to France to further improve his prospects of lasting the distance.

Friday also marks Nadal's 36th birthday, and he has dropped heavy hints that this might be his final fling.

However, if that proves to be the case, it will be with heavy reluctance on Nadal's part, as he made clear on Thursday.

Speaking to Spanish broadcaster TVE, Nadal said: "I have always had things clear. I accept things as they come. At no time do I intend for it to seem like a farewell.

"What happens is that there is a reality that today is what it is. We will continue working to find solutions to what is happening down here.

"I trust and hope to be able to return. What happens is that there is a year to go, and it is evident that these last months, not these last three, I would say that since last year they are being difficult.

"The day-to-day with everything that entails is being difficult, not because of the effort that it entails for me, but also to maintain competitiveness. I play to be competitive, which is what really makes me happy.

"We are going to enjoy the moment and after this we will continue thinking about the things that need to be improved, and the hope is to continue."

There would seem a strong chance that Nadal elects to miss the grass-court season in order to rest up, but he continues to defy expectations, so nothing can be ruled out. 

Should he triumph in a grand slam for a 22nd time on Sunday, it would take him two clear of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the all-time list.

Nadal's record at this tournament is quite extraordinary, surpassing the achievement of any other player in tennis history at a single grand slam.

Alongside his 13 French Open titles, he has won 330 of the 364 sets he has contested at the event and owns a 110-3 win-loss match record.

Some 88 of those wins at the French Open have come in straight sets, and from 2010 to 2015 he reeled off 39 victories in succession, until Djokovic beat him in the quarter-finals.

Nadal has won 23 6-0 sets at his favourite major, including subjecting Federer and Djokovic to such torture in the 2008 and 2020 finals respectively.

Zverev has only been to one grand slam final, losing at the US Open to Dominic Thiem in 2020, but may think his time is coming after an impressive quarter-final win over Carlos Alcaraz, the 19-year-old widely acclaimed as the next clay-court king.

It might help the German that the spotlight will be fixed on Nadal, too, as it invariably is on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

There has been no collective chasing away of Nadal amid the talk that his career could be on the rocks, and no media agenda involved. This is a thrilling late-career resurgence from the Spaniard that many, albeit perhaps not Djokovic supporters, would like to see continue.

This time he has laid his injury situation quite bare, and magical nights such as the four-set epic against Djokovic this week are becoming increasingly loaded with poignancy.

As Nadal said in a news conference after that match, regardless of his intentions, this could well be his French Open farewell.

"Yes, I can't say another thing, no?" Nadal said. "I am very clear about that, no?

"I am old enough to not hide things or come here and say a thing that I don't believe. I don't know what can happen. I think, as I said before, I'm gonna be playing this tournament because we are doing the things to be ready to play this tournament, but I don't know what's gonna happen after here.

"I mean, I have what I have there in the foot, so if we are not able to find an improvement or a small solution on that, then it's becoming super difficult for me.

"I am just enjoying every day that I have the chance to be here, and without thinking much about what can happen in the future.

"Of course I'm gonna keep fighting to find a solution for that, but for the moment, we haven't. So to just give myself a chance to play another semi-final here in Roland Garros is a lot of energy for me."

Novak Djokovic conceded he went down to the better player on the day, losing to Rafael Nadal in the French Open quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Nadal defeated the world number one 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6 (7-4) and moved to an 8-2 record over 10 matches between the two while also progressing to his 15th semi-final at Roland Garros.

Djokovic has accounted for two of Nadal's three losses over his career at the French Open but looked second best throughout, specifically in the crunch moments.

The first-seeded Serbian did not hide from that fact, praising the 21-time Grand Slam winner on the victory after quickly walking off Court Philippe-Chatrier and to his post-match news conference.

"Congratulations to Nadal. He was a better player I think in important moments," Djokovic said afterwards. "I didn't start so great, 2-6, 0-3, double-break down. I was gaining momentum as I was coming back in the second set, managed to win the second set, and I thought, I'm back in the game.

"I had my chances. I had my chances in the fourth [set]. Served for the set, couple set points. Just one or two shots could have taken me into a fifth. Then it's really anybody's match."

After claiming the third set with a stunning fightback, winning four consecutive games, Djokovic looked in a good spot to take the match to a deciding set.

While Djokovic's unforced error count piled up - coming up with 53 for the match - Nadal dug deep and broke back in the ninth game, displaying incredible defence and point management from the back of the court against a familiar rival.

Having missed his chance, Djokovic failed to regain momentum from there, with Nadal going up five match points in the fourth-set tie-break before closing out.

"I gave my best. I know I could have played better," Djokovic said. "I'm proud of fighting and staying until the last shot. As I said, I lost to a better player today. Had my chances. Didn't use them. That's it. Over four hours' battle and I have to accept this defeat."

"Then he had another two, three fantastic games at the beginning of the third. He was just able to take his tennis to another level in those, particularly moments at the beginning of all sets except the fourth…. he showed why he's a great champion.

"Staying mentally tough and finishing the match the way he did. Congrats to him and his team. No doubt he deserved it."

Rafael Nadal insists he does not know which match will be his last at Roland Garros, but said it is the most important place of his career after defeating Novak Djokovic on Tuesday to reach his 15th French Open semi-final.

The 13-time winner at Roland Garros progressed in spectacular fashion in what was suggested could be his last match on Court Philippe-Chatrier, beating the world number one in four sets 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6 (7-4).

The 35-year-old will now face Alexander Zverev, who defeated teenage Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz earlier on Tuesday.

Nadal made it known how significant Roland Garros has been to him and his career after securing the win, but teased over the prospects of a return.

"Without a doubt, there is no other place like this one for me," Nadal said post-match. "It's the most important court of my tennis career, the most special one.

"For me, to feel the love of everyone here in Paris in the most important place of my career, it means everything to me.

"See you in two days, that's the only thing that I can say."

Nadal was largely in control against the world number one, displaying a unique familiarity with the Serbian's game at critical points.

After Djokovic looked set to push the game to a deciding fifth set, Nadal dug deep and broke back in a monumental ninth game. He had all the momentum in the fourth-set tie-break, holding five match points at one stage before closing out.

The 21-time Grand Slam winner nevertheless asserted how tough an opponent Djokovic is, bringing out his best in what could be a last French Open.

"I've been in a very, very tough match," he said afterwards. "Novak is one of the best players in history, without a doubt, so always playing against him is an amazing challenge.

"All the history that we have together, today was another one and to win against Novak, there is only one way to play - at your best from the first point until the last.

"Tonight had been one of these magic nights for me. An unexpected level, but I'm super happy."

Rafael Nadal spectacularly progressed to a 15th French Open semi-final, defeating Novak Djokovic in four sets 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6 (7-4) on Tuesday.

Nadal had lost to Djokovic on only two of their past nine meetings at Roland Garros, and the 13-time French Open winner raced out the blocks as he twice broke the world number one to claim a 4-1 first-set lead.

The Spaniard swiftly secured the first set on Court Philippe-Chatrier and opened with another break after a mammoth 17-point game, which Nadal eventually won on his seventh break point.

Djokovic faltered again on his next service to fall 3-0 down but immediately made amends by breaking Nadal consecutively to fight back for control.

Nadal had a chance to take the set to 5-5, but was broken after pushing his shot long and the Serbian ultimately triumphed in the second set in an hour and 24 minutes.

Nadal then responded by taking the third set in stunning fashion, seemingly cruising to take it 6-2.

Djokovic regained a semblance of control early in the fourth set but was crucially broken back in the ninth game as the crowd urged on Nadal, who built momentum and started hitting flatter.

It was a critical point in the match and Nadal displayed incredible capacity to turn defence into attack, while unforced errors crept into the first seed's game.

On his third attempt in the game, Nadal finally secured the break with a sumptuous off-forehand, punishing Djokovic who dropped the ball short.

Suggesting this could be his last game at Roland Garros, the 35-year-old played with profound determination and assertiveness, taking the fourth-set tie-break 7-4.

Data slam: The King of Clay reigns over Djokovic

With Tuesday's win in four sets, Nadal moved to an 8-2 record over 10 matches at Roland Garros against the world number one.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Nadal – 57/43
Djokovic – 48/53

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Nadal – 3/4
Djokovic – 5/4

BREAK POINTS WON

Nadal – 7/17
Djokovic – 4/12

Rafael Nadal spectacularly progressed to a 15th French Open semi-final, defeating Novak Djokovic in four sets 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6 (7-4) on Tuesday.

Nadal had lost to Djokovic on only two of their past nine meetings at Roland Garros, and the 13-time French Open winner raced out the blocks as he twice broke the world number one to claim a 4-1 first-set lead.

The Spaniard swiftly secured the first set on Court Philippe-Chatrier and opened with another break after a mammoth 17-point game, which Nadal eventually won on his seventh break point.

Djokovic faltered again on his next service to fall 3-0 down but immediately made amends by breaking Nadal consecutively to fight back for control.

Nadal had a chance to take the set to 5-5, but was broken after pushing his shot long and the Serbian ultimately triumphed in the second set in an hour and 24 minutes.

Nadal then responded by taking the third set in stunning fashion, seemingly cruising to take it 6-2.

Djokovic regained a semblance of control early in the fourth set but was crucially broken back in the ninth game as the crowd urged on Nadal, who built momentum and started hitting flatter.

It was a critical point in the match and Nadal displayed incredible capacity to turn defence into attack, while unforced errors crept into the first seed's game.

On his third attempt in the game, Nadal finally secured the break with a sumptuous off-forehand, punishing Djokovic who dropped the ball short.

Suggesting this could be his last game at Roland Garros, the 35-year-old played with profound determination and assertiveness, taking the fourth-set tie-break 7-4.

Data slam: The King of Clay reigns over Djokovic

With Tuesday's win in four sets, Nadal moved to an 8-2 record over 10 matches at Roland Garros against the world number one.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Nadal – 57/43
Djokovic – 48/53

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Nadal – 3/4
Djokovic – 5/4

BREAK POINTS WON

Nadal – 7/17
Djokovic – 4/12

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