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Grand slam classic at the French Open

Paris: Serbia's Novak Djokovic, left, shakes hands with Spain's Rafael Nadal after their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium Friday, June 11, 2021 in Paris. Novak Djokovic won 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. AP/PTI(AP06_12_2021_000019B) (AP)Premium
Paris: Serbia's Novak Djokovic, left, shakes hands with Spain's Rafael Nadal after their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium Friday, June 11, 2021 in Paris. Novak Djokovic won 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. AP/PTI(AP06_12_2021_000019B) (AP)

Djokovic and Nadal gave us a match that roused Roland Garros to reckless cheers. High on its 'egalite' score but memorable for a lot more

Normalcy, or at least an intimation of it, was in the air. Roland Garros in Paris had a largish live audience for Friday's semifinal of the French Open tennis tournament, one that was roused to raptures in frequent defiance of airborne risk. This, we would have to pardon. They must have been helpless. This was Rafael Nadal, 35, on clay, summoning all his art, ingenuity and brawn at its most guttural in defence of his domain from the perfectionism, patience and poise of Novak Djokovic, 34, the world's top ranked player. In twists and tenacity as much as its clash of wits, it would qualify as one of the game's greats. Not in the league of Nadal's Wimbledon final win over Roger Federer back in 2008, won with a clincher that popped out of nowhere, but close enough in the intensity of its drama of nerves and artful rallies. Novak prevailed, at the end, and advanced into the final to meet Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday, but Nadal was Nadal and this was Roland Garros.

Many of the contest's smashes were cliches, but there was sufficient artifice in the rally-ups of a few to make up for that. In contrast with Wimbledon grass, with its wonders of serve-and-volley play, French clay often makes for closer contests over each point. And an "egalite" from the chair for drawing equal on court, at 40:40, sounds far more elegant than "deuce", a dull English word that also refers to a dice call. Friday's match had egalite called frequently amid whoops of amazement and gusty cheers. This bit was inadvisable, of course, with a virus around (high vax ratio or not), but it was also a sign of a splendid match.

The final ought to have its own delights, what with Djokovic and Tsitsipas vying for this year's Frenchtitle. Let's see how well it does on the 'egalite' count.



























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