Nadal advances to French Open quarterfinals vs. Djokovic (0:19)

Nadal defeated Auger-Aliassime in five sets to advance to the French Open quarterfinals. (0:19)

Nadal is used to dealing with adversity. His entire year has been anchored around it, whether it is his chronic foot injury, a rib fracture or his own Uncle Toni attempting to mastermind his downfall.

Despite his five-set win over Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday that stretched him to his maximum, Nadal has remained in control of his script.

After his 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory, Nadal said he was thankful to play another year. I am thankful to live the dream.

There were times on Sunday when Nadal looked like a human. We are not used to seeing him tested like this. It was hard to comprehend. Everything was back to normal after the passing shot at the net and the hop, skip and three fist pumps.

Rafael Nadal prevailed over Felix Auger-Aliassime in five sets on Sunday, setting up a quarterfinal matchup with Novak Djokovic. AP Photo/Thibault Camus

The reality is that Nadal's season is not normal. The Nadal of the previous 13 titles here in Paris is now a different player, a man who lives in constant pain and is always hoping his body meshes with his mind on the court.

There is still a synergy that allows him to keep winning.

He was talking about the possibility of retirement six weeks prior to the start of the Australian Open, so his triumph was completely ridiculous. He won his 21st Grand Slam title over the next fortnight. It looked like it would be the year of Nadal when he took the Mexican Open, but with Roger Federer out, it looked like it would be a different story.

He fractured a rib at Indian Wells in March, but again there was a twist in the road. He missed six weeks of the season.

He ran into a wall in the quarterfinals of the Madrid Open. He talked about the pain he was in after he fell to Denis in Rome.

Nadal said that he was a player living with an injury. It is difficult for me to accept the situation sometimes.

He said that he had a dream and that he wanted to go toRoland Garros.

Expectations around Nadal were lower than usual. All the usual trademarks of Nadal were there when he was practicing on the clay. At times, he smiled. It felt like he was going to be fine.

The first three rounds went according to plan, with wins against Jordan Thompson, Corentin Moutet and Botic van de Zandschulp.

He received a great reception from the crowd on Sunday. His record was up on the screen. Lost 3. There are ghosts of Nadal everywhere, even in a sculpture of him here.

There was something uneasy about the match with Auger-Aliassime. Maybe it was the man who coached Nadal from a young age, and now is coaching his opponent.

Nadal's uncle Toni coached Rafa until 2017 -- but was at Sunday's match as Felix Auger-Aliassime's coach. EPA/YOAN VALAT

He was in the front row in his white shirt, like a benevolent Roman emperor. He said in the build up that he wanted Rafael to win. If he were to lose, it would be a less painful loss because the player I work with would win, but I don't like to deceive anyone.

The only time Nadal moved in the first set was when Auger-Aliassime hit a reverse volley, which he applauded.

It was a tough first set for Nadal, who said he didn't start the match well.

Auger-Aliassime took the first set after breaking him twice. There was a feeling in the stadium that the much-awaited quarterfinal between Nadal and Novak Djokovic wasn't going to happen, that everything we've taken for granted from Nadal on Chatrier was shifting in front of our eyes.

The routines of Nadal were distorted. There are three taps on his shoes to remove the clay from his feet. Then there is the tug on the shorts, the 14 or so bounces of the ball and the serve. He lays everything out, puts his six drink bottles in the fridge behind the umpire, and puts his towels at either end. It is all precise.

He forgot to do one end. He looked bewildered as he tried to find his towel, looking around to see if it had escaped him. He forgot to put those out. These things are not forgotten by Nadal.

Nadal looked off at times, and especially struggled in the first set. But by the end of Sunday's match, he had firmly taken control. Photo by TPN/Getty Images

It looked like Nadal was going to lose his bid for the title, but he came back to win the next two sets. The young Canadian forced it to a fifth with Nadal struggling to read his serve.

But Nadal was not ready to go away. He has been overcome worse this year. The fifth set was about experience and Nadal was able to get through it. While his nephew danced around the court, his uncle stayed.

It will be a relief for Nadal to come through this, and he will find out in the next 24 hours how much of an impact it has had on his foot. There is an obstacle waiting in the quarterfinals. It will likely be an evening match, something Nadal doesn't like, because the conditions will be colder.

I don't know what will happen, but I will fight until the end, Nadal said.

It will take some effort to get the keys off Nadal, as he proved on Philippe-Chatrier, as he showed on a chilly Sunday afternoon.