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Finale before the final; Djokovic faces Nadal in what is superstar duo's 58th matchup

10:42 PM Jun 10, 2021 | FPJ News Service

Paris: Its is a finale before the final, as Novak Djokovic will face off Rafael Nadal for one place in the final of men's French Open final on June 13.

The semifinal will be the superstar duo's 58th matchup, more than any other two men in the sport's professional era; Djokovic leads 29-28. But Nadal is ahead 10-6 in Slam meetings, 7-1 at the French Open.

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But it was not as many would have though about as Djokovic had to deal with so much that went awry: consecutive unforced errors that gave away a tiebreaker; a 21 1/2-minute delay while spectators left because of a COVID-19 curfew; a face-down tumble that drew blood from his left palm.

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Still, the top-seeded Djokovic held on and moved on, pulling out the quarterfinal victory against No 9 Berrettini 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5) 7-5 on Wednesday night.

"This match had it all: falls, crowd, break. It was a lot of intensity. I just felt under tension the entire time," Djokovic said.

"The reaction (at) the end was just me liberating that tension that was building up for the entire match."

Now comes a semifinal on Friday against a familiar foe in a rematch of last year's Roland Garros final, but a round earlier: Nadal, who is 105-2 in the clay-court tournament.

"We know each other well," the third-seeded Nadal said.

"Everybody knows that in these kind of matches, anything can happen."

Nadal's French Open set streak ended earlier Wednesday. His pursuit of a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title - and what would be a 14th in Paris alone - remained very much intact, however.

Nadal shrugged off dropping a set at his favorite event for the first time in two years by whipping violent forehands punctuated with fist pumps and yells of "Vamos!" en route to a 6-3 4-6 6-4, 6-0 victory over 10th-seeded Diego Schwartzman.

"For anybody, it's very difficult to play against him. He's feeling very comfortable on court," Schwartzman said after falling to 1-11 against Nadal.

"He's Rafa, and he's always finding the way."

Nadal reached his 14th semifinal in Paris; Djokovic his 11th. It's Djokovic's 40th trip to the final four at any major, Nadal's 35th. Nadal and Roger Federer share the men's mark of 20 Grand Slam titles; Djokovic is at 18.

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