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French Open tennis: Rafael Nadal tops rival Novak Djokovic in quarterfinals

Rafael Nadal, shown May 27, will now face No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev in the French Open semifinals. Photo by Maya Vidon-White/UPI
Rafael Nadal, shown May 27, will now face No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev in the French Open semifinals. Photo by Maya Vidon-White/UPI | License Photo

May 31 (UPI) -- Rafael Nadal outlasted defending French Open champion Novak Djokovic in a four-set quarterfinal thriller Tuesday in Paris, moving one step closer to his 14th championship at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament.

Nadal defeated the top-seeded Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in a match that spanned more than four hours at Roland Garros. The fifth-seeded Spaniard will now face No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev in the semifinals.

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"One of those magic nights for me," said Nadal, who is attempting to capture his 22nd major trophy overall.

The 35-year-old Nadal easily took the opening set and built a 3-0 lead in the second, though Djokovic ended up battling back to take it, later saying, "I thought, 'OK, I'm back in the game.'"

Djokovic then dropped the third set before grabbing a 3-0 lead in the fourth, but he was unable to maintain his momentum. He served for the set at 5-3 -- standing one point from forcing a fifth set twice.

Nadal managed to save those set points and broke there, then ran away with the closing tiebreaker, taking a 6-1 edge and never looking back after his first three match points went awry.

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"I lost to a better player today," Djokovic said. "Had my chances. Didn't use them. That's it."

Tuesday's showdown between Nadal and Djokovic was their 59th -- more than any other two male players have played against each other in the Open era. Djokovic has a 30-29 advantage in the overall series, though Nadal improved to 8-2 against his rival at the French Open.

Earlier Tuesday, Zverev defeated No. 6 seed Carlos Alcaraz in four sets to advance to the semifinals.

On the women's side of the bracket, unseeded Martina Trevisan upset No. 17 seed Leylah Fernandez in three sets to reach the semis.

Cori "Coco" Gauff, meanwhile, upended fellow American Sloane Stephens in two sets during their quarterfinal showdown.

Moments from the French Open tennis tournament

Rafael Nadal of Spain holds his trophy after his French Tennis Open's final match against Casper Ruud of Norway, at Roland Garros, outside Paris, France, on Sunday, June 5, 2022. Nadal won the title 6-3, 6-3, 6-0. Photo by Maya Vidon-White/UPI | License Photo

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