It was a mindset of ‘the further, the better’ for world No 2 Daniil Medvedev in regards to escaping Nadal on clay until as late as possible, while world No 10 Diego Schwartzman made no secret of his wish to avoid the Spaniard in the same side of the draw in the future, such is his aura of invincibility in a tournament he has governed for 15 years.
Although the latter had been Rafael Nadal’s latest obstacle as he dared to threaten his authority with a valiant performance in their quarter-final clash only to eventually fall 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-0 after an imperious fourth and decisive set.
However, the Six-time major champion Boris Becker suggested that this week, the end of Nadal’s reign in Paris is a question of time amid his pursuit of a fifth successive French Open crown.
As Novak Djokovic could have a defining say in that after overcoming Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 to seal his place in the final four and pencil in a semi-final match-up with his old foe.
“It’s not like any other match,” said Djokovic. “Let’s face it, it’s the biggest challenge that you can have, playing on clay against Nadal, on this court on which he has had so much success in his career, in the final stages of a Grand Slam. It does not get bigger than that.
“Of course, each time we face each other, there’s that extra tension and expectations. [The] vibes are different walking on the court with him. But that’s why our rivalry has been historic, I think, for this sport. I’ve been privileged to play him so many times.”
Djokovic boasts a 29-28 career head-to-head record against Nadal and is the last man other than the 35-year-old to win a singles title at the French Open having beaten Andy Murray back in 2016. Nonetheless, he has won just one of seven meetings with Nadal in the competition as the duo gear up for round 58.
“[My] rivalries with him and Roger (Federer) have made me a stronger player, allowed me to understand how I need to improve my game to get to the level where they were when I started playing professional tennis,” he added. “I’ll probably pick Rafa as the biggest rival I’ve ever had in my career.
“The quality and the level of tennis that I’ve been playing in the past three, four weeks on clay, Rome, Belgrade and here, is giving me good sensations and feelings ahead of that match. I’m confident. I believe I can win, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Let’s have a great battle.”