Once again Diego gave a really good account of himself against Rafa and once again it wasn’t quite enough. When push came to shove Nadal had that extra gear again. From one set all and *3/4 Rafa rolled off nine straight games to take the match in four. My girlfriend always has this thing that I want to see Rafa get beat at the French. That isn’t because I don’t admire Nadal, far from it but I am not going to lie on this occasion she was right. I just love El Peque. The last set and half saw Rafa playing himself into some real form with his heavy topspin forehand proving as troublesome for his opponents as it usually is. Incredible to think this is the first set he has dropped since 2019. There is dominance and then there is utter supremacy.
We have got the semi-final that every neutral wanted to see after Nole played much better against Matteo Berrettini. There weren’t the nerves there had been early on against Lorenzo Musetti and that let him establish a two-set lead this time. It was unlikely he would come out slow back to back. The Italian then managed to get his big serve and forehand working and it got quite uncomfortable for the Serb. Djokovic did somewhat play into his hands by snatching a nervy forehand and then backhand into the net when initially leading the third set breaker 5/4 (with two on his serve). In the fourth, it looked like we might be going to another breaker but Nole managed to get the break at 6/5. A few points before sealing it he rammed his boot into the advertising boards and then gave it an almighty roar (or two) having won. There will no doubt be a lot of criticism for this and the booting of the boards wasn’t great but I think the roar was more about relief and releasing some tension. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I am not a big fan of that myself but you need to realise what is on the line here for Djokovic and I wouldn’t be too hard on him for sure. It is warming up to be an explosive encounter with Rafa and I just hope it lives up to expectations. Nadal goes in as the clear favourite at around the 2/5-4/11 mark (a 71-73% chance). You have to fancy the Spaniard still but I did like Djokovic’s comments. “The quality and the level of tennis that I’ve been playing in the last 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.”
You could see that Iga Swiatek wasn’t right from quite early on against Maria Sakkari. Moving to her forehand side was a problem with her hip/thigh injury. I still think it is quite impressive from Sakkari to get the job done 6/4 6/4 in her first quarter-final nonetheless. It would have been easy to play the injury here in the circumstances but she focused on her game and that saw her over the line after the Pole had taken an off-court MTO early in the second. It is a sad end to the title defence for Swiatek but she has shown so much here that you know going forward it is just a small blip in the journey. Sakkari is now the favourite for the event.
Babora Krejcikova will play her in the semis. Coco didn’t take her chances in the first set when she had five set points and fell away for most of the second set until she did stomach a mini fight back. The American thought she was a bit ‘passive’ on the setpoints and needs to learn from that as it isn’t the way she wants to play. One of the quotes from her interview after read “My hitting partner told me this match will probably make me a champion in the future. I really do believe that.” I think with the manner of the loss she is spot on. So easy to forget she is still only 17-years-old with all the maturity she shows but you have to expect performances such as these from younger players. It put paid to my tip for the quarter but as far as Coco is concerned it has been a positive few weeks. The Czech actually put both of my tips out for the quarter in the last two rounds. Krejcikova kept fighting, her level was more consistent and her variation in the rally meant she had built up a big enough lead in the second to eventually see her through.
Andy Del Potro (Al Davies).