When asked about facing World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the 2016 champion, who the Spanish superstar will face on Friday, Nadal admitted, “It’s always a big challenge. [The] best thing is you know that you need to play your best tennis. It’s a match that you know what you have to do if you really want to have chances to succeed and to keep going on [in] the tournament.
“That’s something that is good, because in some ways we are practising [and] we are living the sport for these moments… The negative thing [is that] it’s difficult because you play against one of the best players in the [sport’s] history.”
Nadal, who beat Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 in the quarter-finals, trails Djokovic 28-29 in their legendary ATP Head2Head series. Nadal beat Djokovic for his 10th Internazionali BNL d’Italia crown last month and has not lost to the Serbian star on clay since May 2016 in Rome.
Many commentators have credited facing Nadal at Roland Garros as the hardest challenge in the whole of sport, as the Spaniard has compiled a 105-2 match record at the clay-court major since making his debut in 2005. He is also 26-0 once he reaches the semi-final stage.
Nadal, who recently celebrated his 35th birthday, was humble in his response. “I am not the one to talk about myself,” said Nadal. “I can’t avoid that I have great numbers here [at] Roland Garros… [The fact] that commentators think about me that way is something that I am proud of. It’s an honour for me.
“Of course, the numbers are just amazing. But I can’t think about that now, honestly. Let’s talk about that when I finish my career. Now is a moment to be happy. I won an important match today against a tough opponent. I was able to find a way to play my best tennis in the moments that I really needed to.
“It’s a moment to enjoy today and [I will] try to start preparing for that semi-final in terms of recovery, in terms of practice [a] little bit tomorrow to confirm the good feelings [that I had] at the end of the match.
Nadal is now 23-3 on the season, which includes a record 12th Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell title (d. Tsitsipas).