2022 in Review: Rafael Nadal beats Felix Auger-Aliassime in epic


Rafael Nadal reached his 16th Roland Garros quarter-final following a hard-fought 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Felix Auger-Aliassime. Rafa needed four hours and 21 minutes to overcome Felix on Court Philippe-Chatrier and set a blockbuster Novak Djokovic clash in the quarter-final. Nadal remained undefeated in the clay-court five-setters, staying focused in the decider and avoiding an early exit. Auger-Aliassime left his everything on the court against the legend, pushing Nadal to the limits but hitting the exit door. All five sets saw eight or nine games, and they could have battled for at least one more hour had they produced tighter battles. Auger-Aliassime became the sixth player who took two sets away from Nadal at Roland Garros and the fourth who challenged the king of clay in a four-hour Roland Garros match! The young Canadian became the fourth player who took two sets away from Rafa in the Roland Garros match after Robin Soderling, John Isner and Novak Djokovic.

Still, he did not have enough strength to bring the victory home. Rafa grabbed 17 points more than Felix after outplaying him in the mid-range and most extended exchanges. Nadal made the difference with the second serve. He got broken five times from nine chances offered to Auger-Aliassime and created massive 22 break points! The Spaniard seized only six, which cost him more time on the court and energy ahead of the Novak Djokovic clash. Felix saved break chances in the encounter’s third game and broke Rafa in the next one to open a 3-1 gap after the rival’s forehand error. The Canadian survived another challenging service game and moved 4-1 ahead. Nadal got broken for the second time in a row in game six to fall 5-1 down after a basic backhand error. Rafa grabbed his first break in game seven after the opponent’s double fault and held at 15 in the next one for 3-5. Felix served for the opener in game nine and produced a fine hold with a service winner to wrap up the opener in 52 minutes and gain a boost.

Rafael Nadal battled past Felix Auger-Aliassime at Roland Garros.

Nadal raised his level in the second set and returned to action. The Spaniard endured a scary moment at 1-1 and kept the pressure on the other side for the rest of the set. Nadal held at love in game seven and broke Auger-Aliassime in the next one after the rival’s forehand mistake to build the advantage. Rafa closed the set with a hold at 30 at 5-3 thanks to a routine winner at the net that leveled the overall score for him. Rafa controlled the pace in set number three, serving well and breaking the young gun in games three and seven for 5-2. The Spaniard defended superbly at 1-1 and stole the Canadian’s serve after Felix’s terrible smash. Auger-Aliassime saved a break point at 1-3 before losing serve two games later following a loose backhand. Nadal served for the set at 5-2 and held at love to forge two sets to one advantage after two and a half hours.

Felix made a fresh start in the fourth set and survived Rafa’s six game points to steal his serve and move 2-0 up. Nadal pulled a break back in the third game before netting a forehand in the next one to find himself 3-1 behind. Auger-Aliassime grabbed the seventh game after deuce and served for the set at 5-3. The young gun wrapped up the set with a volley winner in game nine that introduced a decider after three and a half hours! Starting all over in one of his most challenging Roland Garros matches, Nadal served well in the final set and forced the opponent to follow those numbers if he wanted to stay alive. Felix held after deuce in game six for 3-3, and Rafa grabbed the next one at love to gain a boost. Nadal secured a crucial break in the eighth game with a backhand winner that pushed him closer to the finish line. The Spaniard moved over the top with a forehand winner in game nine for a place in the quarter-final.

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