June 04 | 06

Rafa is through to his second semi final at Roland Garros when Novak Djokovic was forced to retire with Rafa leading by two sets to love, 6-4, 6-4. The pair played just three points of the third set before Djokovic realised he could not continue and Rafa was handed a place in the semi finals.

The match promised much before it started with Djokovic in his first Grand Slam quarter final and a very exciting prospect for the future. The young man from Serbia and Montenegro had even written "Vamos Nole" on the back of his shoes in anticipation of the match.

Djokovic started the match firing balls off both wings, but in the early stages he was missing more than he was making and after they exchanged breaks at the start of the set it was Rafa who was able to get a second and crucial break. Rafa handled Djokovic's streaky play well throughout the first set at 5-4 he serve out the set comfortably to love, with a driving forehand from the Majorcan forcing Djokovic into making a backhand error on set point.

Rafa got off to a lightening start in the second set quickly going up a double break. The 20 year old worked hard to maintain his level as Djokovic seemingly crumbled mentally as Rafa broke for the second time. But it became clear when the trainer came on court that the youngster from Serbia and Montenegro was struggling with a lower back problem.

The injury time out that Djokovic needed was costly for Rafa as he struggled to maintain his concentration after the break. He was further hampered with another break in momentum when Djokovic added to his injury woes by turning his ankle trying to reach a forehand winner by Rafa. But Djokovic's tactic of trying to keep the points short by going for winners and coming in to volley paid off as he was able to get one of the breaks back.

Two more breaks of serve quickly followed with both players finding it hard to regain their rhythm but it was Rafa who came out on top and he was the first to recover his concentration as he went up 5-3 in the second set. Djokovic continued to play high risk tennis and was going for his shots in every rally. But despite hitting 27 winners in the two sets they played, he matched that with 27 unforced errors and this statistic largely helped Rafa to serve out the second set at 5-4.

A big serve from Rafa on set point was all he needed to squash Djokovic's brave fight back and the signs were ominous for all to see as Djokovic walked gingerly back to his chair for the sit down.

Djokovic came out to give the third set a try, but as he hit a backhand long to go down 15-30 he decided it was safer for his back to stop playing and he was greeted by a very sympathetic Rafa at the net who indicated that the crowd should acknowledge Djokovic's brave attempt to play through the pain barrier.

It was not the way Rafa would have wanted to win, but the important thing is he is through to the semi finals where he will face either Ljubicic or Benneteau and is still on course to defend his French Open title. Well done Rafa!
Vamos Rafa!

Written by: Kate Flory