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Novak & Rafa: The Rivalry

  • Posted: May 18, 2019

Novak & Rafa: The Rivalry

A recap of every match between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal…

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have met more than any other two players in the Open Era, a record 53 times. Djokovic leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 28-25 and has won nine of their past 11 contests, with the Serbian winning their most recent meeting in the 2019 Australian Open final.

On Sunday, the pair will meet for the eighth time in Rome in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final. The winner will break a tie between the two players to stand alone with a record 34 ATP Masters 1000 titles. breaks down a history of the duo’s 53 career matches:

2019 Australian Open Final, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3

In an eagerly anticipated match-up, a repeat of their 2012 final in Melbourne Park, Djokovic started with a bang to win the first three games. Nadal, with his refined service motion and potent forehand, was unable to create an opening and through two sets Djokovic had lost just six of his service points and committed four unforced errors. Nadal continued to fight and created his lone break point at 2-3, 30/40 in the third set, but Djokovic was in irresistible form and put together one of the best performances of his career.

In capturing his 15th Grand Slam championship crown, the 73rd tour-level trophy of his career, the Serbian broke a tie with Pete Sampras (14). It was also a record-breaking seventh trophy at the Australian Open, moving passed Roy Emerson and Roger Federer. Read Match Report

2018 Wimbledon SF, grass, Djokovic d. Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-8

It was clear that Djokovic had climbed closer to his best form ahead of the pair’s semi-final at The Championships, hanging tough against Nadal in Rome, reaching the Roland Garros quarter-finals and finishing runner-up at The Queen’s Club. But could the Serbian overcome the greatest challenge of his comeback from a right elbow injury against World No. 1 Nadal, who was 35-2 on the season?

It turned out that the great rivals were evenly matched, with Djokovic saving five break points in a thrilling fifth set before triumphing after five hours and 15 minutes. And fittingly, they both hit 73 winners to just 42 unforced errors in the classic. 

Djokovic earned his first Grand Slam semi-final win against Nadal to reach his fifth Wimbledon final, claiming the signature victory of his comeback to advance to his first major championship match since the 2016 US Open. Nadal had won 16 consecutive matches in the last four at Slams, but he bowed out after making his deepest run at the All England Club since 2011, when he lost in the final.

2018 Internazionali BNL d’Italia SF, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 7-6(4), 63

Entering the pair’s first meeting in more than a year, Nadal was the clear favourite. The top seed had won 50 consecutive sets on clay — a record for the most sets claimed in a row on a single surface — before falling in the Madrid quarter-finals the previous week. And it was tough to tell how high Djokovic, still recovering from a right elbow injury, would be able to raise his level. 

But the Serbian played excellent tennis, especially in the first set, comfortably finding the sharpest of angles from the backhand corner to give Nadal fits. But toward the end of the opening set, the Spaniard began to unleash his forehand down the line, therefore changing court positioning and taking control of baseline rallies, leading to his eventual victory. 

It was an important win for Nadal, earning his 356th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 match victory to break a tie with Roger Federer (355) for the most in history. The 31-year-old also moved within one triumph of reclaiming the No. 1 spot in the ATP Rankings after dropping to No. 2 with his loss in Madrid. The triumph not only showed Nadal’s great form, but also that Djokovic, despite competing in just his first semi-final of 2018, is on his way back to his top level.

2017 Mutua Madrid Open SF, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 6-2, 6-4

During their historic 50th FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, Nadal decidedly turned the tables on Djokovic, thoroughly outplaying the defending champion to reach his eighth Mutua Madrid Open final. Djokovic had owned their rivalry during recent years. The Serbian had won 15 consecutive sets and seven straight matches against Nadal.

It had been nearly three years since the “King of Clay” had prevailed against Djokovic – the 2014 Roland Garros final. But Nadal dominated from the start during their 50th meeting in Madrid, aggressively smashing forehands and confidently hitting backhand winners. Djokovic would make it a match in the second set but Nadal served out the final after one hour and 38 minutes.

The win further solidified Nadal’s place in history as the greatest clay-court player and showed the tennis world that the Spaniard is back in top form. He improved to 14-0 in clay-court matches this season and will play for his third clay-court crown of the year, after winning a record 10th title at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell earlier this season.

2016 Internazionali BNL d’Italia QF, clay, Djokovic d. Nadal 75 76(4)

In their closest contest for almost two years, Djokovic rallied from a break down in both sets to thwart an in-form and enthusiastic Nadal. The Serb extended his recent mastery over the Spaniard to move into the Rome semi-finals for the 10th consecutive year. Djokovic has now won the past seven matches and 15 sets against Nadal.

The World No. 1 leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 26-23. He also moved within two matches of winning his 30th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title.

2016 BNP Paribas Open SF, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 76(5) 62

Djokovic earned the opportunity to play for an unprecedented fifth BNP Paribas Open title after edging Nadal in the semi-finals at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. In the pair’s 48th meeting – an Open Era record on the ATP World Tour – the Serb claimed his sixth straight win over Nadal and has won 13 consecutive sets against the Spaniard.

Djokovic would go on to win the BNP Paribas Open final and join Nadal with a record 27 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles. The World No. 1 has won seven of the past 10 Masters 1000 events. Despite the loss, however, Nadal said he gained confidence from playing Djokovic better than he has in their recent matches.

2016 Qatar ExxonMobil Open F, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 61 62

Djokovic made sure the lone blip in his jaw-dropping 2015 campaign – a Doha quarter-final defeat to Ivo Karlovic – was a distant memory. The World No. 1 captured his sixth consecutive ATP World Tour title and 60th overall at the tour-level. He became just the 10th player in the Open Era to reach the 60-title milestone, drawing level with Andre Agassi in a tie for ninth.

After streaking to a 6-1 first set after just 31 minutes, Djokovic continued to apply pressure on Nadal, suffocating the Spaniard from the baseline with a ruthless display of aggression. He converted his third break point in the opening game of the second set and secured another break to all but seal the match at 4-1. He would wrap up the match after 73 minutes, striking a total 30 winners to just 13 unforced errors.

The Serb leads the historic FedEx ATP Head2Head for the first time at 24-23. He has now claimed 11 consecutive sets since Nadal prevailed in the 2014 Roland Garros final.

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2015 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals SF, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 63 63

Djokovic turned in a comprehensive performance in reaching a fourth consecutive final at The O2 in London, advancing to an 85th tour-level title match. 

Djokovic was on the attack immediately against Nadal’s own serve, pouncing on a short second serve for a return winner in the very first point and breaking to love for a quick 2-0 lead. The Belgrade native struck 12 winners and just one unforced error through the first three games. He was in control at the baseline, dictating play on his own terms and most importantly refusing to yield an inch on his own serve.

Patterns persisted in the second set, with Djokovic using his agility to stand tall on the baseline and he would break for 3-2 after a 25-shot rally. The Serb launched a backhand winner down-the-line on the run to give him his first match point at 5-3 and he would capitalise with another backhand winner – this time going cross-court.

With his consecutive finals reached streak up to 15 tournaments, Djokovic became the first player to claim 30 match wins against Top 10 opponents in a single season.

2015 China Open F, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 62 62

Djokovic extended his run of dominance in Beijing to 29-0 with a gritty victory over Nadal in the final. It was the Serb’s seventh win over Nadal in their last eight meetings, a run that began at the 2013 China Open final. The World No. 1, who had already clinched the year-end top spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings, improved to a stunning 68-5 in 2015 and 23-4 against Top 10 opponents.

Djokovic would get off to a flying start in his quest for a sixth Beijing title, breaking immediately in the first game and again for 5-2 after turning aside a pair of break chances in the sixth game. Nadal would receive a visit from the trainer for an apparent leg ailment midway through the third game of the second set and Djokovic would pounce, breaking for 2-1. He did not look back, surging to the title after 91 minutes. The top seed struck 23 winners, including seven aces.

“This has definitely been my most successful tournament,” said Djokovic during the trophy ceremony. “Beijing has been a lucky place for me. In 2008, I remember the Olympic Games when Rafa won gold and the tradition of Asian tennis started here. I played a great tournament overall and continued playing well today. Rafa and I have played 45 times and I hope that continues.”

2015 Roland Garros QF, clay, Djokovic d. Nadal 75 63 61

On his seventh attempt, Djokovic finally dethroned nine-time champion Nadal on the red clay of Roland Garros, handing the Spaniard just his second loss in Paris and maintaining his hopes of completing the career Grand Slam.

In one of the most highly anticipated Grand Slam quarter-finals in history, Djokovic raced to a 4-love lead in the first set before sixth-seeded Nadal battled back to level the match. Despite the momentum shift, the Serb would find his footing to claim the first set in 67 minutes. 

Djokovic was dominant on his serve in the second set, claiming 16 of 18 straight service points, before eventually taking a two-set lead. He carried that momentum into the final set, limiting Nadal to just three total forehand winners and claiming victory in two hours and 26 minutes. 

2015 Monte-Carlo SF, clay, Djokovic d. Nadal 63 63 

Djokovic reached his fourth Monte-Carlo by denying Rafael Nadal once again at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. Their 43rd meeting with a tale of the seventh game. Djokovic is now riding a 16-match winning streak and is on course to capture four straight ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles.

Nadal took a 2-0 lead at the start of the match, as Djokovic – the form player of 2015 – was tested, but regrouped to win three straight games. In an 11-minute seventh game, which saw Djokovic save one break, his greater weight of shots eventually over-stretched Nadal. Djokovic broke for a 5-3 lead, but Nadal battled throughout the 43-minute opener.

Djokovic playing on, or inside, the baseline, withstood a stern examination of his backhand, to create two break point chances in the opening game but he could not make a breakthrough. Nadal led 40/0 it 3-3, but was left to rue two forehand errors and a double fault as Djokovic went on to claim the 19-point game. Djokovic earned his 29th match win of the season with a backhand winner into space.

2014 Roland Garros, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 36 75 62 64

Nadal prevented Djokovic from completing a career Grand Slam, as he retained his No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking and became the first player in history to win nine titles at a major. He also drew level with Pete Sampras at No. 2 in the Grand Slam title-leaders list on 14 major crowns.

The Spaniard had lost eight of his past nine sets against Djokovic entering the Roland Garros final, and once again fell behind to start the match as Djokovic broke in the eighth game and survived a pair of break points. Though the winner of the first set had gone on to triumph nine times in their 11 previous Grand Slam meetings, a free-swinging Nadal drew level at a set apiece with a break and quickly raced out to a 3-0 lead in the third. The Serbian found renewed energy in the fourth set, recovering a break in the seventh game, but was unable to hold serve to stay in the match as he double-faulted on championship point.

2014 Internazionali BNL d’Italia Final, Rome, clay, Djokovic d. Nadal 46 63 63

Djokovic pulled closer to Nadal in the battle for No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings by claiming his third Rome title and 19th at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 level. It was the Serb’s second triumph over his rival in a Rome final, having prevailed in the 2011 title match.

Nadal entered their 41st encounter having spent over 10 hours on court through the semi-finals, but the seven-time champion showed no signs of fatigue in the early stages. He would surge to a double-break lead in the first set behind a ferocious offensive onslaught, and held on to take the opener in 46 minutes. In their previous 10 meetings, the player who had won the first set went on to win the match. Djokovic was ready to buck the trend, finding his range and rhythm in the second and third sets and turning the tables with a tenacious attacking display. He would hold Nadal to winning under 28 per cent of second serve points won for the rest of the match, firing return winners with ease and standing tall on the baseline. Djokovic’s 46 winners (including 15 from the backhand side) and six aces were too much for Nadal to overcome.

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Djokovic to face Nadal in Rome final after last-four victories

  • Posted: May 18, 2019

World number one Novak Djokovic set up an intriguing final with Rafael Nadal after a 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-3 victory over Diego Schwartzman at the Italian Open.

Djokovic, who saved two match points in his quarter-final win over Juan Martin del Potro, beat a spirited Schwartzman in Rome in two hours 31 minutes.

Defending champion Nadal reached his 50th Masters 1000 final with a 6-3 6-4 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.

His majestic forehand dominated as he won in one hour 42 minutes.

Djokovic’s win in three hours one minute over Del Potro had finished at 1.05am local time on Saturday morning and his evening semi-final provided another stern test against another Argentine, Schwartzman, who played a series of impressive drop shots.

The Serb had won their two previous meetings, the last of which was at Roland Garros in 2017, and he claimed the first break in the seventh game when Schwartzman netted a forehand.

But having lost the opening set in 36 minutes, Schwartzman, in his first Masters 1000 semi-final, kept in contention and a superb backhand down the line gave him a break in the fifth game of the second set.

It was the first of four successive breaks in a fluctuating set that went to a tie-break, which Schwartzman, winner of two ATP titles, quickly took control of.

Djokovic, 31, seized the key break in the sixth game of the decider to reach his ninth Italian final as he bids to repeat last week’s victory at the Madrid Open.

He leads 28-25 in his duel with Nadal that began in 2006, winning their most recent encounter in the first Grand Slam of this year, the Australian Open in January, but the Spaniard has dominated their clay court matches 16-7.

Nadal, 32, had lost in the semi-finals of his last four tournaments, including a defeat against Tsitsipas last weekend in Madrid.

It is his first clay court final of the year and he will look to continue a fine record in the Masters 1,000 Series.

Since 2005, the Spaniard has won at least one of the nine events in the calendar every year except 2015.

In overcast, breezy conditions in the Italian capital, Nadal built a 3-0 lead and took the opening set in 49 minutes.

He continued to work the athletic Tsitsipas, who won this month’s Estoril Open and lost in the Madrid final to Djokovic last week, with some typically stylish, precise groundstokes into the corners.

Tsitsipas, who moved into the last four by virtue of Roger Federer’s withdrawal through injury, had not dropped a set in the tournament and was seeking a fifth final this season, which would have taken him to fifth in the world rankings.

But Nadal was in masterful form and recorded his fourth win in five matches against the powerful world number seven.

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Italian Open: Johanna Konta faces Karolina Pliskova in final after beating Kiki Bertens

  • Posted: May 18, 2019

British number one Johanna Konta came from a set down against Kiki Bertens to reach the final of the Italian Open.

Konta – who will be seeded at the French Open later this month – beat Dutch sixth seed Bertens 5-7 7-5 6-2 in two hours 49 minutes in Rome.

The 28-year-old will play world number seven Karolina Pliskova, who beat Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-4 6-4.

Konta is the first British woman to reach the Italian Open final since Virginia Wade in 1971.

Victory over world number four Bertens marked her first over a top-five opponent since defeating Simona Halep at Wimbledon in 2017.

Both players lost serve twice in the first set before Bertens was able to take the early advantage, breaking world number 42 Konta at set point.

The first two games of the second set went against serve but Konta was able to capitalise on a break at 5-5 to level the match.

Konta dominated the deciding set, breaking Bertens’ serve twice, though she needed four match points to seal the win, having made three unforced errors at 40-0 in the final game.

The Briton lost her first clay-court final to Sakkari at the Morocco Open this month and will now play her maiden Premier WTA event final on the surface.

Sakkari had beaten Pliskova in last year’s event but converted only one break point opportunity as she slipped to defeat in an hour and 28 minutes.

Pliskova, winner of 12 WTA titles to Konta’s three, has won five of the pair’s six completed matches, though the Briton won their most recent match, which came on the hard courts of Beijing in 2016.


Russell Fuller, BBC tennis correspondent:

Konta’s game has been on an upward curve all season.

She has excelled wearing British colours in the Fed Cup, but had not cashed in on tour – until the clay court season got underway.

Konta has always believed she can be successful on the surface, but until this year results had not borne her out.

Her movement looks much improved, as does her drop shot – which is such a handy trick to have up your sleeve on clay.

Not only will Konta now be seeded for Roland Garros, but she has also put herself in a very good position to be a seed at Wimbledon, too.

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BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

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Dimitrov After Geneva Qualifying Win: 'I Have Zero Expectations'

  • Posted: May 18, 2019

Dimitrov After Geneva Qualifying Win: ‘I Have Zero Expectations’

Bulgarian will meet Fabbiano for place in main draw

Playing his first qualifying draw since the 2012 Rolex Paris Masters, Grigor Dimitrov moved one win away from the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open main draw on Saturday.

The Bulgarian defeated home favourite Marc-Andrea Huesler 6-4, 6-3 in 62 minutes to set a meeting with Thomas Fabbiano. Dimitrov had to take a wild card into qualifying after the three available main draw wild cards had already been allocated to Stan Wawrinka, Feliciano Lopez and Janko Tipsarevic.

“Obviously I haven’t competed for a long time, so I need to get as many matches as I can… I am just excited to get back on the court and to feel healthy. This is the number one thing for me,” said Dimitrov, who had played just six matches since the Australian Open. “I think the confidence comes with playing matches… I am going to compete and try my best to prepare to the maximum that I can for the final clay-court tournaments.”

Dimitrov is keen to not put any pressure on results as he continues his comeback. The Bulgarian missed events in Rotterdam, Acapulco and Indian Wells due to a right shoulder injury.

“I have zero expectations right now,” said Dimitrov. “Just because I know what I have been through, what I have gone through. I think physically and mentally, [I am] just trying to get back into decent shape. I always expect more from myself but right now… I don’t need to put anything on myself.”

The World No. 48 is currently attempting to rebuild his ATP Ranking after dropping to No. 49, his lowest standing since 29 October 2012 (No. 55), on 29 April this year. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion took a moment to discuss his unwavering desire to climb back towards the top spots in the game with the valuable support of his team.

“I have dropped, a little bit, my ATP Ranking and things haven’t really gone that well for me in the past months, but that doesn’t discourage me,” said Dimitrov. “All the people that are around me right now, they really look after my best interests. In the toughest moments they are next to me and, to me, that is one of the highest values in life.”

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Test yourself against our roofs, rain & racquets quiz

  • Posted: May 18, 2019
Wimbledon: The No.1 Court Celebration
Venue: All England Lawn Tennis Club Date: Sunday, 19 May Coverage: Live on BBC One and streamed on the BBC Sport website and app (14:00-17:30 BST)

Wimbledon is preparing to unveil its new roof over Court One on Sunday.

How will you fill the few minutes it takes for it to close? By taking our roof-themed tennis quiz, of course!

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Djokovic Saves 2 MP Against Del Potro In Rome

  • Posted: May 18, 2019

Djokovic Saves 2 MP Against Del Potro In Rome

Serbian escapes to reach Rome final

In a battle of supreme offence against relentless defence, Novak Djokovic prevailed against Juan Martin del Potro, but just barely.

The Serbian saved two match points to fend off Del Potro’s best attacking tennis from both wings and reach the Internazionali BNL d’Italia semi-finals 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 early Saturday morning. The four-time Rome champion led 5-2 in the second set, only to have to erase both match points in the tie-break, including one on Del Potro’s racquet.

But the top seed took control midway through the third set and will now face Argentine Diego Schwartzman for a place in his second consecutive ATP Masters 1000 final.

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I never lost faith I could come back to the match. One break of serve, mini break in the tie-break when he was 6/4, more or less open forehand that he was making the entire match, that’s all it took for me to come back,” Djokovic said. “[He] missed a couple crucial points in the tie-break. Also break point third set, quite easy forehand. That’s what happens. That’s sport. I’m just really pleased to overcome.”

Djokovic had beaten Del Potro in both of their prior FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings on clay and in seven of their past eight meetings. But Del Potro, competing in only his third tournament of the season, battled Djokovic evenly from the baseline and often overpowered last week’s Mutua Madrid Open champion from both wings, using his backhand to open up the court and attack Djokovic’s forehand.

Del Potro broke in the seventh game and erased all six break points faced in the first set, including three while serving it out at 5-4. The Argentine ripped a backhand winner down the line to take the opener.

I lost probably the positioning of the court over him. Towards the end of the first, he just started hitting the ball really well from both corners, also backhand side, backhand down the line. He was playing really well, gave me a lot of trouble,” Djokovic said.

The Serbian at last broke in the sixth game of the second when a bad bounce on the line caught Del Potro off guard. But the Argentine broke back in the ninth game when Djokovic tossed in a loose game while attempting to serve out the set at 5-3.

Del Potro, however, missed a forehand on his first match point at 6/4 in the second-set tie-break, and Djokovic locked in on his serve. The Serbian increasingly turned to his drop shot to break up the rallies and lure Del Potro forward, and he executed the shot to perfection while saving the second match point at 5/6.

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As the midnight hour came and went, the third set saw both players egging the packed crowd inside Campo Centrale to get behind them. But it was Djokovic who broke in the fifth game as Del Potro netted a sitting forehand. The Argentine, who missed most of this season because of an injured kneecap suffered last October, didn’t see a break chance the rest of the way.

Did You Know?
Del Potro’s 10 wins against the World No. 1 are the most by any player who has never been ranked No. 1 himself.

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