Day 13 diary: The world stops to watch 'Rafole 58'

 - Alex Sharp

Let’s take a dive into what has happened on and off the terre battue on Friday.

Djokovic Nadal / Demi-finales Roland-Garros 2021©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Roland-Garros 2021 is well and truly on the home straight, but magic moments keep on coming.

Career-defining clashes are re-writing the history books, keeping fans in Paris and across the globe glued to the action. Let’s take a look at what you might have missed around the grounds on Day 13.

Clijsters running out of popcorn

The term ‘popcorn match’ can be a little overused in the tennis sphere.

But the semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was simply as good as it gets.

Former world No.1 Kim Clijsters, a finalist at Roland Garros in 2001 and 2003, was caught up in the anticipation.

“Kids are allowed to be on the iPad a little longer this afternoon,” joked the Belgian on Twitter, admitting her popcorn went after the tense first game.

Clijsters then added: “Would love to know what it feels like to play tennis like Rafa on clay…”

That’s the Tweet

Back to the incredible ‘Rafole 58’ and three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray summed up the drama on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The Scot took to Twitter to hail the brilliance of Djokovic and Nadal – “You cannot play better clay court tennis than this. It’s perfect.”

Applause emojis all round.

Cher, yes you read that correctly, pop icon Cher has got involved too. Check out some posts from across social media below...

DelPo approval for Stef

There’s nothing like a bit of support from a champion.

Juan Martin del Potro, US Open winner in 2009, is one of the most popular players on tour.

The Argentinian, currently on the road to recovery after more knee surgery, posted congratulations to finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“So happy for you! You deserve it,” tweeted the ’Tower from Tandil’. “Wishing you all the best for the final.”

Pattern in Paris

On Saturday, Barbora Krejcikova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will enter uncharted territory, hoping to scribe their names into the Grand Slam roll of honour.

It’s becoming common practice for fresh faces to lift the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen. This will be the sixth straight season the women’s singles champion will be a first-time major winner.

Garbine Muguruza (2016), Jelena Ostapenko (2017), Simona Halep (2018), Ashleigh Barty (2019), Iga Swiatek (2020), will it be Krejcikova or Pavlyuchenkova next?

It happens to the best of us.

Recreational park and club players are used to it, seeing their racket fly after trying to launch a mega serve.

Tsitsipas, locked in the heat of battle with Alexander Zverev, let his grip slip at the tail end of the second set and still managed to win the point!

Teamwork on and off the court

Doubles world No.16 Bethanie Mattek-Sands is a talker, a brilliant talker.

The American, speaking alongside partner Iga Swiatek, prompted a hilarious exchange in their press conference after booking their final ticket.

BMS: I'm talking too much, Iga. I'm going to let Iga answer the next question completely without my interrupting (laughter).

Reporter: I want to ask Bethanie a question. I'm sorry.

BMS: Okay.

Swiatek: (Leaving the room.)

Reporter: No, no, no, please stay (laughter).

BMS: Stay.

Don’t worry there were questions posed to the Pole.

Iga Swiatek & Bethanie Mattek-Sands / Demi-finale Roland-Garros 2021©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Concern for Zverev over slow starts

Zverev has two victories from two sets down, most recently in the Roland-Garros first round against Oscar Otte, but the task was just too insurmountable on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Friday.

The German erased Tsitsipas’ strong opening to force a decider, only to succumb 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 to the No.5 seed.

“During this tournament, during the whole clay court season, I felt I was playing well enough to go deep. But at the end of the day it makes it extremely difficult if the guy has to win one set and you have to win three sets,” reflected the 24-year-old, champion at the Madrid Masters. 

“I almost did it, but I got to start better. I got to be 100 per cent from the first point on.”

Zverev admitted his desire to win a maiden major clouded his ability to produce his best tennis.

“Yeah, in the first two sets, definitely. I started to play proper tennis in the third set.

“I can't go down two sets to love against a top player like Stefanos and expect to win every single time. I've done it at the US Open. I've done it before. But the most important thing to come out of this match are the first two sets. I got to play better in those." 

Having reached the US Open final last autumn, expectations are extremely high from the German himself.

“I'm not at a stage anymore where great matches are something that I'm satisfied with. Today nothing. I lost. I'm not in the final. Was it a good match? Yeah. But at the end of the day I'm going to fly home tomorrow. There's nothing positive about that,” stated the world No.6, looking ahead to a grass court campaign.

“I don't particularly care about semi-finals. Might sound bad in a way, I'm not trying to be arrogant. I'm just saying it how it is. I wouldn't have cared about a final either, to be honest. Wimbledon is in two weeks' time and I'm looking forward to that.”

Shot of the day