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The stage is set! Nadal seals Roland-Garros quarter-final vs Djokovic with five-set win over Auger-Aliassime

Spain’s Rafael Nadal sets up a quarter-final thriller with world No 1 Novak Djokovic with his fourth-round victory over Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3

Rafael Nadal, Roland-Garros 2022 Rafael Nadal beating Auger-Alissime, Roland-Garros 2022

With a thrilling, five-set victory 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 over Felix Auger-Aliassime, Rafael Nadal confirmed the quarter-final match-up tennis fans anticipated since the Roland-Garros draw was released. On Tuesday, he’ll face world No 1 Novak Djokovic, one of just two men to ever beat him at Roland Garros. 

The 35-year-old Spaniard claimed victory on Court Philippe-Chatrier after battling the 21-year-old Auger-Aliassime for over four hours and 20 minutes. Throughout the match, both players showed moments of incredible talent, athleticism, and determination.

Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime in action during his fourth-round match against Spain’s Rafael Nadal (AI / Reuters / Panoramic)

In the opening set, the Canadian quickly broke Nadal’s serve to go up 3-1. Auger-Aliassime eventually closed out the first set 6-3, taking advantage of Nadal’s groundstroke errors and substandard 50% first-serve percentage. The world No 9, now coached by Nadal’s uncle and former coach Toni Nadal, looked comfortable on Roland Garros’s biggest stage as he saved six break points on his service.

Nadal revitalised

In the second and third set, however, the 13-time Roland-Garros champion came back to life, finding his forehand and defending the baseline with inspired energy. After converting several break points on Auger-Aliassime’s serve, Nadal rallied back to lead 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. The lead was quickly erased by the younger man’s impassioned comeback in the fourth set. Backed by 14 forehand winners, Auger-Aliassime converted early break points to push the match to a deciding fifth set.

Nadal, Roland-Garros, Djokovic
Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his fourth round match against Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime (AI / Reuters / Panoramic)

In the deciding set, Nadal tapped into his Roland-Garros magic to break Auger-Aliassime’s serve at 4-3 after an intense back-and-forth of service holds. The world No 5’s 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory marked the culmination of a well-fought battle between two top-ten competitors.

The two men had only met once prior to Sunday’s five-set thriller. In 2019, Nadal beat Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-3 in the Round of 32 at the 2019 Madrid Open, meaning that he now maintains his 100 per cent record.

Nadal now faces world No 1 Djokovic in his next round at Roland Garros. Tuesday’s quarter-final match will mark the 59th meeting between the two tennis greats. Currently, Djokovic leads the head-to-head record 30-28. But, as Nadal has proven countless times, anything can happen on the clay in Paris.

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