PARIS : Rafa Nadal understands it will be a “big challenge” for him to beat Novak Djokovic in Tuesday’s French Open quarter-final but the 13-times winner vowed not to shy away from a fight against the world number one.
Nadal had won the French Open four years in a row before losing to eventual champion Djokovic in the semi-finals last year – just the third time he had been beaten at the claycourt major since his debut in 2005.
That was also the last of the 58 career showdowns between the pair and Djokovic has looked in peak form at this year’s tournament, having not dropped a set in his four rounds.
When asked what he needed to do to win his next match against Djokovic, Nadal said: “I don’t know 100 per cent, because I didn’t have a close test against him, because my last match against him was last year here.
“I didn’t play this kind of match for the last three months, so gonna be a big challenge for me,” he said after winning a five-set thriller against Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.
“Probably he (Djokovic) will be confident. I know how my situation is, and I accept it well. I’m gonna fight for it.”
A well-known Real Madrid fan, Nadal had a happy night on Saturday when he attended his first Champions League final at the Stade de France in northern Paris and watched the Spanish club win their 14th European title.
But he did not join the celebrations afterwards to avoid going to bed too late.
Nadal and Djokovic arrived in Paris with contrasting buildups to the claycourt major.
While the Serb looked in top form during his Rome triumph, Nadal was troubled by a chronic foot problem and lost to Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid quarter-finals before losing to Denis Shapovalov in the third round of the Rome Masters.
“I can’t complain much,” said Nadal, who will turn 36 on Friday. “I am in quarter-finals of Roland Garros. Two weeks and a half ago … I even didn’t know if I would be able to be here.
“And being honest, every match that I play here, I don’t know if it’s gonna be my last match here in Roland Garros in my tennis career. That’s my situation now.
“I am just trying to enjoy as much as possible and fight as much as I can to keep living the dream that is to keep playing tennis and be back in a very advanced round of Roland Garros, playing against the world number one.
“I hope to be able to give myself a chance to play at the highest level possible and then let’s see.”