The quarter-final match, which ended just after 1 am local time in Paris, lasted more than four hours and was one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament.
In their head-to-head matches, Nadal has defeated Djokovic 29 times, while Djokovic has won 30, more than any other two men in the professional sports era.
During Nadal’s long and illustrious career, he played 113 matches at Roland Garros and won 110 of them. Djokovic is responsible for two of these three defeats in Paris.
But could this year’s French Open be Nadal’s last? The 13-time champion Roland Garros, who is dealing with a nagging foot injury, appears unsure.
On Sunday, after his five-set win over Felix Auger-Aliassime in the round of 16, Nadal said: “Two and a half weeks ago, even if I had (positive hopes) after Rome, I didn’t even know if I would be able to be here. So I’m having fun. With the fact that I’m here for another year. And honestly, every game I play here, I don’t know if it will be my last Roland Garros game in my tennis career.”
After his four-set win over Djokovic, he told reporters it was “one of those unforgettable nights” and he was “putting everything” into trying to “run this tournament in the best possible conditions”.
“The fans have been amazing since the start of the tournament,” Nadal said. “I don’t know. I think they probably know I won’t be here (many times).”
Nadal was asked if there was an extra emotional burden on him knowing that any one match could be his last.
“I don’t know what could happen. I think, as I said before, I will go into this tournament because we are doing things to be ready to play this tournament, but I don’t know what is going to happen. It happens after here.”
“I have what I have there in the foot, so if we can’t find an improvement or a small fix on this, it’s going to get very difficult for me.”
Nadal said he is enjoying every day at Roland Garros “without thinking too much about what could happen in the future” and will continue to struggle to find a solution.
After the match, Djokovic congratulated Nadal, saying he “showed why he’s a great champion. You know, staying there is mentally tough and ending the match the way he did.”
“I did my best” but “I know I could have played better,” said the world number 1 seed.
“I’m proud to fight and stay until the last shot. Like I said, you know, I lost to a better player today…more than four hours of battle, and I have to accept this defeat.”