It’s Nadal and Djoko for the 56th time

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Rafael Nadal during a practice match.
Rafael Nadal during a practice match.
Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty Images

SPORT


Rafael Nadal maintained his grip on the French Open by reaching another men’s singles final – where he will face top seed Novak Djokovic today.

Spanish second seed Nadal is going for a record-extending 13th title and won 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (7-0) against Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman in his semifinal.

Nadal (34) has only lost twice on the Roland Garros clay.

Djokovic is one of the men to beat him and set up another chance by overcoming Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 33-year-old Serb showed his resilience to win 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1 against 22-year-old Tsitsipas, who was aiming to reach his first grand slam final.

Now Djokovic will meet Nadal for the 56th time in their careers – no two men have played each other more – and will contest their ninth grand slam final against each other.

If Nadal lifts the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy yet again, it will see him equal Swiss rival Roger Federer’s all-time leading record of 20 men’s grand slam titles.

Aside from a tricky start against Italian teenager Jannik Sinner in the quarterfinals, it has actually been smooth progress for the Spaniard, who has yet to drop a set over the fortnight

Djokovic, meanwhile, knows a victory will move him to 18 major titles – within one more of Nadal and two adrift of 39-year-old Federer.

Everything is unfamiliar about this French Open – the tournament is taking place in cooler weather after being rescheduled because of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic; there is a new roof over Court Philippe-Chatrier; floodlit matches go long into the night; and there is a sparse, restricted crowd of up to 1 000 fans.

Nadal’s progress through the draw into the final without too many bumps is one of the few constants.

Heading into the tournament, Nadal said a lack of usual preparation for his favourite grand slam, the autumnal conditions in Paris and a heavier new ball provided him with the “toughest test” that he had ever faced at Roland Garros.

Aside from a tricky start against Italian teenager Jannik Sinner in the quarterfinals, it has actually been smooth progress for the Spaniard, who has yet to drop a set over the fortnight.

Schwartzman was the first seeded player Nadal faced in the tournament and, despite dropping serve in a tentative start and then twice more in a nervy finish, never looked in danger of losing in the Roland Garros last four for the first time. – BBC


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