Spanish stalwart Rafael Nadal has conceded that the last three-and-a-half months, following his triumph at the year’s first major — the Australian Open — hasn’t been easy as he battled a rib fracture and foot injury.
On a day when the winner of a record 21 Grand Slams defeated world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in four hours and 12 minutes to reach his 15th French Open semifinal, Nadal was overcome by emotions as he recollect his struggles with injuries.
“I became emotional because, of course, the last three months and a half for me, the only thing that I can say is it hasn’t been easy,” Nadal was quoted as saying by atptour.com. “Not going to be talking about all the things I went through the last couple of months any more now, because I have to keep going, but of course it hasn’t been a fun three months.
“All these things… make this match more special, without a doubt,” the winner of 13 titles at Roland Garros added.
Nadal’s build-up to his favourite Grand Slam, the French Open, has included a six-week recovery from a rib fracture and overcoming a chronic foot injury. He’s now just two wins away from recording his 14th Roland Garros title and his 22nd major crown.
“In the end, it has been a very emotional night for me. I’m still playing for nights like today. But it’s just a quarterfinal match, no? So I didn’t win anything. So I just give myself a chance to be back on court in two days, play another semifinals here in Roland Garros. It means a lot to me,” the 35-year-old said.
Nadal expressed confidence in his abilities to overcome the challenge of Germany’s Alexander Zverev in last-four.
“If I am not playing good or if I am losing in that semifinals match, (it is) not going to be because I’m not going to be focused… I have experience on that. I am not the kind of guy and player that emotionally goes high and low. I am very stable, I think, emotionally.
“I know how the things works, no? It’s the moment to enjoy today, because (it has) been a beautiful night for me, without a doubt. Very emotional one. But tomorrow (I’m) going to start thinking about things that I need to do to be ready for that semi-finals. The main goal is be focused on (keeping) the level that I have been playing today,” he added.
The Spaniard will take advantage of his two rest days after winning a pair of four-plus-hour matches against Djokovic and Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Looking back on his rivalry with Djokovic, Nadal said, “This is one more episode. That’s it. We played… in the most important events, in the most important matches for a lot of years, and it’s always special to play against each other. Tonight has been just a quarterfinal match, not the final. So that’s different. But still a super classic match and in a big scenario.”