PARIS — For a man who did not want to play Novak Djokovic at night, Rafael Nadal certainly made the best of the situation.
Whatever the hour and whatever the surface, Nadal remains one of the supreme fighters and problem solvers in sports. Though Nadal did not have the clout as a 13-time French Open champion to influence the scheduling, he did have the skill and the will to hold off the only man who has beaten him twice at Roland Garros.
Nadal, who will turn 36 on Friday, was irresistible at the start of his latest marathon with Djokovic and sometimes shaky in the middle, but he found a way well after midnight to save two set points down the stretch and cross the finish line in first with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory.
“Novak is one of the best players of the history without a doubt,” Nadal said. “Playing him is always an amazing challenge, all the history we have together. Today was another one. To win against Novak there is only one way to play, at your best and first point to the last, and tonight was one of those magic nights for me.”