Rafael Nadal shrugged off his epic loss to Novak Djokovic at the French Open on Friday, insisting that “life goes on” as the 13-time champion suffered just his third defeat in 108 matches in Paris over 16 years.
In their 58th career clash, world No. 1 Djokovic triumphed 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 in their semi-final and remained on course to capture a 19th major and become the first man in more than 50 years to win all four Slams twice.
Nadal, the defending champion and chasing a record-setting 21st Grand Slam title, refused to dwell on the consequences of his 4 hour, 11 minute loss.
“I am sad to have lost in the most important tournament of the year for me, but life goes on, it is nothing more than a defeat on a tennis court,” 35-year-old Nadal said. “If everything goes well, tomorrow I will be at home with my family and friends, and then we will see what is next.”
Nadal said he plans to be back next year, although he added that time is not on his side if he wants to re-establish his Paris dominance.
Had he made today’s championship match, he would have been the oldest Roland Garros finalist in the modern era.
“Although it is a very important tournament for me, I am aware that you cannot win it 15 or 16 times,” he said. “Next year I will come again, God willing, with the belief and with the necessary work to be able to give myself another chance.”
In their 58th career meeting, and ninth at the French Open, Nadal had looked comfortably on course for victory when he raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set, but 2016 champion Djokovic, the man now responsible for two of Nadal’s losses in Paris — having also triumphed in the 2015 quarter-finals — hit back.
As the match progressed, the conditions became heavier, more humid and slower, and the world No. 1 flourished.
He claimed a titanic 92-minute third set which had seen him serve for it at 5-4 and then have to save a set point in the 12th game.
In the fourth set, he was 0-2 down before racing away with the next six games for his second win in Paris over Nadal in nine meetings.
Djokovic is to play his sixth Roland Garros final and 29th at the Slams against Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, who earlier on Friday defeated Alexander Zverev of Germany, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Krejcikova were to meet the women’s singles final last night, with the match to finish after press time.
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