Quotes from the French Open men’s semi-finals

PARIS – The highly-anticipated French Open men's semi-finals didn't exactly deliver on the drama scale, to understate the case.

The women did marginally better on that score Thursday, although that wouldn't have been hard to do.

Still, at the end of the day – literally, for it never came close to spilling over into the evening – the two best players in the world will vie for the world No. 1 ranking on Sunday in Paris.

Here's what semifinalists Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Ernests Gulbis had to say after it was done.

Rafael Nadal

On how practice makes perfect:

"I say the other day that I was practicing better than (I had in a long time), so that's why the result today, no? Normally when you are playing well, then you are able to play with the right position and go on court with the right intensity. You can do it. You can play at the same level that you are practicing, so I think something that I did today."

On whether he expected such an easy day:

"When you're going on court playing against one of the best players in the world, you don't expect nothing. You expect a tough match. You expect play point by point, and you expect to play your best to try to win. That's the real thing."

On the forehand struggles during the clay season:

"The first few weeks with my forehand I was not able to create winners. I was not able to take advantage when I was hitting with my forehand. I was losing court. I was playing with more mistakes than usual. My position on court was not a good one to compete against good players. I was playing with, you know, more nerves, more anxiety than usual, because was a little bit new feelings for me on clay that I was not able to find my real game on clay."

On beating Murray:

"(In Spanish) He's somebody I know very well on a personal level. He's a beautiful person. I'm sorry for him. I think he's achieved very good results despite this loss today, but I think I played better than he did."

Novak Djokovic

On the third-set swoon:

"First two sets went well. I thought I played well, very solid, putting a lot of returns back in the court, serving at the high percentage. Then suddenly midway through the third set started to feel physically fatigued a little bit, and you could feel that. You could see that both me and him, we struggled on the court."

What was it?

"It happens, you know. It happens in the tournament, and important thing for me is that I realize what's going on. It's nothing serious. There is nothing bothering me. Just the general fatigue that, you know, probably was influenced by conditions or other things that I felt today. But I'm not going to talk about. That's it. I just – I'm glad I won in four sets, because if it went to a fifth, God knows in which direction the match could go."

On the big weather change:

"It requires a little bit of an adjustment, because we played for over 10 days of the tournament in overcast and a little bit heavier conditions. The ball wasn't bouncing as high as it did today. Today the hitting point was a bit higher, so you had to adjust to that. And of course it was strong sun. That also affects the fatigue of the players."

On how, for yet another Slam, the young guns (Raonic, Dimitrov, Nishikori) get talked about, but at the end of the day it's still No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the final:

"Grand Slams is best of five and it's a two-week long event. It's all this pressure and expectations. I think those three players that you mentioned are now encountering probably for the first time in their career what it means to be, you know, in the mix or a contender, one of the favorites, or so forth. ... It's not easy. Mentally it affects you. You are, up to this point, only a young player who is very talented and swinging through and playing your best tennis. But suddenly, when you have to encounter these mental challenges, then it becomes a different sport. That's something that in my personal experience and career was a lesson, and it took me some time to understand how to handle it."

Andy Murray

On Nadal's play:

"He played a great match. He missed hardly any balls. He served very well. I mean, his forehand – especially with the conditions the way they were today – was incredibly hard to control the ball. As soon as he was inside the court, I mean, he was hitting the ball so close to the line. Yeah, he played great tennis."

On being his own worst enemy:

"I don't know, to be honest. If it was, I've only got myself to blame, because I was in control of a lot of the matches that went longer than maybe they should have been. So if that did have anything to do with it, it was completely my fault."

On what he expected going in, and on trying too hard:

"Well, I knew it was going to be a difficult afternoon obviously before I went on the court. I was expecting a lot of long rallies. I was expecting to have to do a lot of running. It was a tough day for me. It was a bad, bad day. I'll need to bounce back quickly from it, because I'm not particularly happy with the way I played today. I normally strike the ball fairly cleanly. Today I was mishitting a lot of balls. It was incredibly frustrating. I wanted to play better and better as the match went on. In some ways you start trying too hard, and it doesn't always appear that way. But you want to do stuff too badly, and you end up making more mistakes and things get worse."

On being a better finisher:

"There were a few too many sets this week in the matches where I was up. I could have finished sets quicker, could have finished matches quicker. Like I said, I only have myself to blame for that. That's something during the grass and over the next few months I'll definitely need to work on, you know, not letting guys back in when, you know, when I've got the match won. That's something that Rafa has obviously done incredibly well, especially here."

New coach update before Wimbledon?:

"I don't know. I don't know. I would hope to have someone in place. I don't know. 50-50 maybe? I don't know."

Ernests Gulbis

On the nerves:

"Difference in the match was, first of all, I'm not used to play these kind of big matches. It's just normal I felt extra nervous and extra tense. I can take one positive side out of the match: that I could still win a third set feeling that nervous and that extra tired, and I saw that he was feeling the same. So it's not only me."

On the (lack of ) quality of the match:

"In my opinion, it was not a good quality tennis at all. It was just grinding and just trying to put the ball in. (Neither) me, nor he felt the ball good. You know, it was really slow pace. It was a struggle out there, you know. I felt maybe throughout the match I hit five really clean shots, you know, from either side, backhand or forehand. Even serve. I felt that he did the same. ... I couldn't show my best game today. And he couldn't show his best game. You know, just the circumstances were there and it was, like I said, a struggle. It's not much even to analyze about this match. You know, the tactics or the game plan, there was nothing. It was basically who put four balls in a row in the court. That's it, in my opinion."

On the learning experience:

"Yes, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. Can I say that it was only positive emotions? No. It was a lot of tension, a lot of nerves for me. Even as soon as I win a match, you know. I feel really good for next one hour, but then I already started thinking about the next matching and the tension is there and it didn't let go. Now let's say I feel relieved. I'm not happy that I lost, you know, but I feel in a way relieved. That I have at least not another match for a couple of days, until the grass court."

On how clueless he was the first time:

"I understood it much more than I did the previous time I was in second week of a Grand Slam. Previous time I reached quarterfinal I had no idea what was happening. I was there, you know, whatever comes, comes. I wasn't thinking about it. Okay, it's a match, you know. Whatever. Play on, you know. Now I really understood every feeling and I learned from it and I tried to, yeah, enjoy it. And even if it's like negative emotions, like being nervous and being tense, I tried to even enjoy that and understand it, to understand how I can be better next time."

On cloistering himself before the semi:

"One hour of practice; rest of the day I just spent in the city, in the room. Nothing. Not really enjoying Paris (smiling). Just sitting in room I need to get out of now. I need to get out of the room tonight (smiling)."

On being hungry for more:

"I'm not going to celebrate. It's not enough. I need to reach more now. Now I'm addicted to success, really (smiling). Again, I felt the success so close, and I don't say that I let it slip, these two weeks, because it's great to play semi-final. I need to make this extra step now. I'm extra motivated now."

On his last remaining vice:

"No, I can take a cigar, but not – with my coach. That's the only vice which is left in me."

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