Reigning champion Rafael Nadal advanced to the semifinals of the French Open on Wednesday after Serbian teenager Novak Djokovic withdrew injured when trailing by two sets to love.
The 20-year-old Spaniard extended his winning streak on clay to 58 matches after his 6-4, 6-4 victory, to set up a meeting with either fourth-seed Ivan Ljubicic or Frenchman Julien Benneteau in Friday’s semi.
Djokovic turned his ankle in the second set but he looked to be wilting under the sun more than anything. He had admitted after defeating France’s Gael Monfils in the last 16 that he was a spent force.
And Nadal had a word of sympathy for his beaten rival.
”This tournament is very hard, the matches are very long and that can take its toll,” he said.
Playing Nadal is hardly the tonic for a weakened state.
The Spanish clay sensation will have found this shortened run-out a welcome break, having spent four hours more on court than main rival Roger Federer in reaching the last eight.
”Now I can play the semifinal with more confidence,” said Nadal.
Nadal was quickly into his running against his nervous teenage foe and broke in the opening game of the match.
Djokovic broke straight back but found his serve was vulnerable to Nadal’s heavy, topspin game and he was broken in his second service game as well.
Briefly, the game went with serve as Nadal closed out the first set 6-4, before the breaks started again in the second.
Djokovic failed to hold any of his first three service games and although he broke two of Nadal’s first three, he was always playing catch-up.
When the pair finally managed to hold serve at the end of the set, Nadal again closed it out 6-4.
The third set lasted only three points before a dejected-looking Djokovic ambled to the net with his head hung low to congratulate his vanquisher. — AFP