The Quebecer pushed the best player in clay court history to play a final set, but finally gave in 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 3-6 after 4h 20min of fighting.
I believed in my possibilities until the end. This is the kind of game you dream of winning. I gave everything, I tried everything until the end. I have no excuses. But regardless, it’s the kind of match you think of afterward. It would have been wonderful to winlet fall.
Auger-Aliassime was tied with his rival until the end of the fifth inning when he broke. With a 5-3 lead, Rafael Nadal put an end to this very long debate from the next match.
No player had managed so far this year at Roland-Garros to snatch a single round from the 5th seed.
In the entire history of the tournament, only Novak Djokovic in 2013 and John Isner in 2011 have managed to take Nadal to the limit of five sets, without winning.
On Sunday, once the rackets were lowered, the two players warmly shook hands at the net, which undoubtedly pleased Uncle Toni Nadal, adviser to the Auger-Aliassime clan.
As agreed at the start of their collaboration in 2021, neutrality was in order for the duels between the Canadian nugget and his nephew, with whom Toni won 16 major titles, including 10 of the 13 at Roland-Garros.
He is an extraordinary player, one of the best in the world, said Nadal, on the field, about his rival of the day. He is very young, very powerful and his mobility is extraordinary. He was a very tough opponent who does many things very well.
” It gets better every year. I wish him success, because he is a good guy. It’s a big win for me today. »
If, on occasions, courtesy prevails over the veracity of the words in this type of interview before an audience, Nadal’s words were sincere and fair.
Auger-Aliassime pushed his left-footed rival for much of the match. In the first set, every time the Quebecer seemed to be on the service wires, he managed to get out of it. On two occasions, he saved three break points in a row.
At times, Nadal seemed to still have his mind at the Stade de France, where he was the day before the Champions League final, won by Real Madrid.
He concluded the opening set with statistics contrary to his habits: barely 50% of first serve balls in play, and only 6 winners against 15 unforced errors.
I didn’t start the match well with all these missed break points, explained the Spaniard. Afterwards, things got better, but the beginning of the fourth round was difficult. He has a great serve and it’s hard to push him away. I’m glad I was able to be more aggressive at the end.
Clever! Nadal is not Nadal for nothing.
Beginning in the second round, he gradually regained the advantage over Auger-Aliassime, who, however, did not slow down. He had two breaks in the third set and looked like he was headed for victory.
Not to mention the determination of the ninth seed, who never gave up. The two multiplied the spectacular exchanges, marked by the winning redemptions or by the exceptional defensive maneuvers.
Auger-Aliassime never seemed intimidated by the Spaniard. He did not stop hitting with all his might from the baseline the most successful man in the history of Grand Slam tournaments.
The Quebecer’s devastating forehand sent Nadal flying on a few occasions. The latter, however, got his revenge by defeating Auger-Aliassime during several of his net climbs.
At most, the Quebecer looked tense in his final service round in the fifth set. Nadal, like an old fox, felt that it was time to step forward.
I will polish my game so that I can win matches like this and achieve my ultimate goal.Auger-Aliassime explained.
In the fifth round, he was more aggressive and it worked. Credit to him.
Before the match, Frédéric Fontang had told Radio-Canada Sports that his protégé could not lose on Sunday: either he would win the match or he would learn.
The lesson, as difficult as it is to digest today, will certainly come in handy before long.
In the quarterfinals, Rafael Nadal will face Novak Djokovic, one of the only two players in history who has already beaten him at Roland-Garros with the Swedish Robin Söderling.
It will be the 59th duel between the two living legends and the first since Djokovic’s semi-final win at Roland-Garros last year.
We have a long history, he and I, said Nadal. He won the tournament in Rome this season, while my preparation was not ideal. But here is my favorite place. I will be focused and try to play the best I can. I will fight until the end.