The noble apartments on Boulevard d'Auteuil are less than a hundred meters as the crow flies from the scene. It is quite possible that Novak Djokovic tore a couple of neighbors out of their early sleep at midnight when their screams cracked with power through the empty stadium. The circumstances of the victory after a complicated game against the Italian Matteo Berrettini, including a long break in which the 5,000 spectators were asked to leave the Stade Roland Garros because of the curfew and a bloody injury to the left palm after a fall, unleashed bloodshed in the dark.

In the semi-finals this Friday (not before 5.30 p.m. at Eurosport) with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, people will again be sitting in the stadium to see the 58th meeting of the grandees in the full light of the day; the game will probably be over by the night curfew at 11 p.m. In the balance of the big duel, the Serb leads 29:28, but based on Roland Garros, Nadal is clearly ahead with 7: 1. The one defeat comes from 2015, one of the weakest years of the Spaniard and the best of the opponent, who at the time almost won the legendary Grand Slam.

Last year at the autumn tournament in Paris, Djokovic didn't have the slightest chance in the final, but the numbers are certainly less important in this story than a special feeling.

"It's not like any game," says Djokovic.

“That is the greatest challenge you can have, playing against Nadal on clay and on the court where he has had such great success in his career.

There is always special tension and expectations, and the mood is different when you go out with him.

For me he's probably the biggest rival I've ever had in my career. "

Zverev meets Tsitsipas

One of the special circumstances - apart from the adventurous record with 105 wins for the Spaniard in 107 games at this tournament - is that he never lost a semi-final or final. When he won the quarter-finals against Diego Schwartzman from Argentina, he did not seem convincing for a sentence, but the penalty followed immediately; once he recovered there wasn't much for the other to inherit. “Rafa is unbeatable here,” said Schwartzman afterwards, “he always finds a way to victory. Hopefully next year I'll end up in Djokovic's half of the draw and not his. "

So much for the game of the best in the second semifinals this Friday, with 20 Grand Slam titles on one side and 18 on the other. In the first, the game of the challengers between Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas (start at 2:50 p.m. at Eurosport), the score is 0-0, but it should certainly not stay that way in the long term. Three years ago, Zverev landed in Paris for the first time in the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam tournament, last year in Melbourne for the first time in the semifinals, and later in late summer in New York the premiere in the game for the title followed.

Looking back at this development, Zverev says, before the younger ones like Tsitsipas or Daniil Medvedev reported, he was somehow seen as the guy who would take over the reign of the tennis world. And he also put a lot of pressure on himself. “I didn't have a lot of patience with myself, I didn't play on the same level as in other tournaments. But now I feel like I can handle the situation better. Maybe I'm a little calmer at the tournaments, but nothing has changed in terms of the goal itself. "

Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 16 months younger Greek, landed for the first time in the semi-finals of one of the big four tournaments in Melbourne in 2019, followed by Paris 2020 and Melbourne this year on the same level, after a previous win in five dramatic sets against Nadal. This time he will be more rested, with fresh confidence after a convincing performance in the quarter-finals against Medvedev, number two in the world. So far everything is fine, said Tsitsipas after the game, "but my ego tells me I want more".

Of seven games together, Zverev won the first almost three years ago and the last in Acapulco in mid-March 2021, the Greek grabbed the five in between.

But this time it's about more than Playa Revolcadero in Acapulco or Washington DC - about a place in the finals of the largest clay court tournament in the world against one of the best in the history of this sport.

Dealing with this situation is no small matter;

if you cheer too early, you may end up lacking breath.

As with Novak Djokovic after his victory against Nadal in the quarter-finals in 2015, when the corks already popped in the Serbian clan, although various games were still on the tournament schedule.

In the end, it was not the conqueror of ruler Rafael Nadal who stood on the podium with the historic silver cup, but the Swiss Stan Wawrinka.