Novak Djokovic’s exit from the French Open wasn’t without a bit of customary drama after the Serbian ace criticized event organizers for allowing his marathon match with rival Rafael Nadal to extend past 1am local time.
The world number one came out on the losing end of a four-hour epic against clay court specialist Nadal, losing by a score of 2-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-7(4) in a match which began in May but ended in June.
And speaking after the showdown, Djokovic hit out at the late start to what was the most high profile match of the tournament thus far claiming that the timing of it might have suited broadcasters, but it certainly didn’t suit the players.
“There are difference of opinions about the night sessions. I think they are starting too late, to be honest,” Djokovic said after his loss at Roland Garros.
“But again, TV decides. That’s the world we are living in. Broadcasters say it’s going to be night match, day match. They give the money. They decide.”
Nadal, who is chasing a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam at the event he has dominated since 2005, agreed with Djokovic’s summary but added that he is content to now have two days off before his semi-final matchup.
“It is, without a doubt,” he said, when asked if the late scheduling is difficult for the players.
“I understand the other part of the business, on the other hand television pays a lot of money to have matches that late, the tournament makes money and the players make money, we need to find the right balance to make things work in the best way possible.
“But it is true that to start a match here at 9 in the evening, playing on clay, best of five, can be very long and these kinds of things can happen, that’s it.”
The Spaniard’s win against the in-form Djokovic adds further success to what has been an impressive year for the 35-year-old. He became the first man to achieve 21 Grand Slam victories at the Australian Open in January; a record which was achieved after multiple-time winner Djokovic was deported from Melbourne after a Covid-19 vaccination spat.
His continued success is even more remarkable given the chronic foot issue he has been battling in recent times, and which flared up once more at the Italian Open just weeks ago.
It was a titanic tussle between two of the best players of their generation at Roland Garros, with momentum swinging back and forth throughout the four hour and eleven minute match before Nadal was able to secure victory with a tiebreak win in the fourth set.
“A very tough match,” he said following the epic encounter.
“Novak is one of the best players in history and playing against him is always an amazing challenge. Today was another one.”
Djokovic also paid tribute to his great rival, saying: “He was a better player, I think, in the important moments. He started very well. I didn’t start so great.
“I was gaining momentum, managed to win the second set and thought OK, you know, I’m back in the game. But then he had another two, three fantastic games at the beginning of the third. He was just able to take his tennis to another level in those. He showed why he’s a great champion. Staying there mentally tough and finishing the match the way he did.”