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Djokovic & Nadal's Roland Garros Rivalry

  • Posted: Jun 09, 2021

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have battled more times in their ATP Head2Head rivalry than any players in history. On Friday, they will meet for the ninth time at Roland Garros.

Nadal has dominated the clay-court Grand Slam throughout his career, tallying a jaw-dropping 105-2 record. But one of the two men who has beaten the Spaniard is 2016 champion Djokovic, who will be standing across the net on Court Philippe-Chatier in the semi-finals. 

Thirteen-time titlist Nadal will take a 7-1 lead in their Roland Garros series into the clash. Before the blockbuster showdown, looks back at their previous meetings on the Parisian terre battue.

2020 Roland Garros Final, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5&#x2028
Djokovic won the Internazionali BNL d’Italia leading into Roland Garros, and when he reached the Paris final, the Serbian had a 37-1 record on the 2020 season. But that mattered little to Nadal, who played an extraordinary match to defeat the top seed in two hours and 41 minutes. Nadal had not beaten Djokovic in straight sets at a Grand Slam since the 2008 Roland Garros semi-finals, and this was the Spaniard’s most lopsided win at a major in their rivalry.
Nadal deserves credit for his relentless offence from the baseline. Not only did the lefty crush 31 winners in the match, but he only made 14 unforced errors. The more you go for it, the more often you typically miss. But on Court Philippe-Chatrier, the Spaniard barely missed at all.

Djokovic was trying to win his 18th Grand Slam title and his second trophy at Roland Garros. He could have become the first man in the Open Era to complete two Career Grand Slams, but 52 unforced errors were his undoing.


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. 

2014 Roland Garros F, 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.

2013 Roland Garros semi-final, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 64 36 61 67(3) 97
Both players were competing for a shot at history. Djokovic was attempting to have a shot at winning his first Roland Garros crown, which would make him the eighth man in tennis history to complete the career Grand Slam. Nadal was going for an eighth title in Paris. Djokovic had dealt Nadal a harsh defeat in their previous meeting at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, where he ended the Spaniard’s 46-match winning streak at the event. Did it weigh on Nadal’s mind? The Spaniard was two points from victory when he led 6-5, 30/15 in the fourth set, but he tightened up and Djokovic fought back into contention. Nadal then came back from a 2-4 deficit in the drama-filled fifth set, which lasted 87 minutes, to give the match an enthralling finish. The semi-final last four hours and 37 minutes and kept alive Nadal’s 21-match winning streak. It was only the second five-set match Nadal had played at the major, with the first being a first-round win over John Isner in 2011.

2012 Roland Garros final, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 64 63 26 75
The two were meeting for the fourth time at Roland Garros, with Nadal taking their previous three Paris clashes in straight sets. Djokovic was appearing in the final for the first time. In a final that was played over two days due to several rain delays, Nadal hit 34 winners to 29 unforced errors, and led two sets and a break before the Serbian rallied to win eight consecutive games en route to clinching his first set over Nadal at the tournament. He took a 2-1 break lead before play was suspended for the day on 10 June. When played resumed on Monday, Nadal broke back to level at 2-all and went on to wrap up the final victory in three hours and 49 minutes after Djokovic hit his fourth double fault to end the match. Djokovic was looking to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam championship titles. Nadal improved to 3-0 against Djokovic on clay in 2012.


2008 Roland Garros semi-final, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 64 62 76(3)
Three-time defending champion Rafael Nadal tightened his grip on the No. 2 spot in the South African Airways ATP Rankings by extending his Roland Garros record to 27-0 with a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(3) win over No. 3-ranked Novak Djokovic in two hours and 49 minutes. Nadal became the first man since Ivan Lendl from 1984-1987 to reach four consecutive finals, and just the third man in the Open Era to do so. Djokovic was unable to generate any break points on Nadal’s serve throughout the first set and, with his attacking play nullified by great defense from Nadal, he went on to lose the first set 6-4 after 57 minutes. The Spaniard closed out the set 6-2 with a forehand winner after 91 minutes, and put the match out of Djokovic’s reach by going up a double break in the third set. Djokovic fought back and had a chance to win his first set against the Spaniard at Roland Garros when he earned a set point after an effective return in the 12th game. However, Nadal denied him and went on to take the match on the tie-break.

2007 Roland Garros semi-finals, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 75 64 62
Both started the semifinal as the only ATP players to have broken the 40-win plateau on the season. Novak Djokovic, a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist, challenged Rafael Nadal in the 66-minute first set as he came from down two breaks to get back on serve at five games all. But Nadal promptly closed the set as he won the next two games. Djokovic had an opportunity to take the 2-0 lead in the next set, but Nadal saved three break points and never looked back. He converted on three of his remaining four break chances in the match to cement the 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 win in two hours and 28 minutes. The Spaniard went on to become the second player in Roland Garros history (since 1925) to win three consecutive titles in Paris.

2006 Roland Garros quarter-finals, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 64 64 ret. (thigh, back)
Defending champion Rafael Nadal struggled with his serve, but Novak Djokovic was never 100 per cent fit and attempted to keep the points short throughout his maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal. Nadal, who led Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, notched his 58th consecutive clay-court victory when the World No. 63 retired with a back and thigh injury after one hour and 54 minutes. Nadal extended his perfect Roland Garros record to 12-0 and stood two wins away from a century of career wins (98-12) on crushed brick.

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Schwartzman: 'He's Rafa & He Always Finds The Way'

  • Posted: Jun 09, 2021

In three of the past four Roland Garros editions, Diego Schwartzman has advanced to at least the quarter-finals. On each of those occasions, he has faced a daunting obstacle: 13-time champion Rafael Nadal. After falling short on the Parisian terre battue against the Spaniard for the third time on Wednesday, the Argentine made known his draw preference.

“I don’t want to be on the same side of the draw next time. I think I’m a very good player on clay. I did great tournaments here in Paris, but [I am] always losing against Rafa the past few years,” Schwartzman said, cracking a laugh. “In a semi-final, two times [the] quarters. I want to play maybe Nole [Novak Djokovic] next time, but not Rafa.”

Schwartzman is not the only player who would prefer to not play Nadal at the clay-court major. The legendary lefty is now 105-2 at Roland Garros. Before the Argentine won the second set of their quarter-final, Nadal had claimed 36 consecutive sets at the tournament.

“For anybody it’s very difficult to play against him. He’s feeling very comfortable on court. Everything is so nice for him on court. It’s very difficult to be close to the baseline sometimes, and he likes that,” Schwartzman said. “He feel like he’s doing everything to put you two, three metres behind the line. The court is really big and you start to play difficult games and difficult matches against him.”

The fans inside Court Philippe-Chatrier showed their appreciation for Schwartzman throughout the match, and he was in position to potentially take a two-sets-to-one lead. The crowd greatly enjoyed the high level the 10th seed found to test Nadal.

“The crowd was unreal today, amazing. Playing again [in an] almost full stadium, a lot of people here in Paris, first time since two years ago, playing with the public and the crowd saying my name, everything was so nice,” Schwartzman said. “I think it was helping because I was feeling great on court. But I think at the end of the third set, they started to realise Rafa was maybe in [a difficult match], so they started to say his name, not any more my name.

“I think he deserved that, obviously. I think today [we] both enjoyed the match a lot with [the] crowd.”

As much as Schwartzman enjoyed the experience, he would have preferred to reach his second consecutive Roland Garros semi-final. Instead, he departs Paris with a 1-11 ATP Head2Head record against Nadal.

“At the end it’s very difficult. I had the chances today maybe in the third. I was close. I was playing a little bit better than him,” Schwartzman said. “At the end he’s Rafa and he always finds the way.”

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Blood, Sweat & Fears: Djokovic Escapes To Set Nadal SF

  • Posted: Jun 09, 2021

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic left everything on the court as he withstood all of big-hitting Matteo Berrettini’s firepower to prevail 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 in a dramatic battle on Wednesday night. He booked a highly anticipated battle against 13-time champion Rafael Nadal for a place in the Roland Garros final.

Djokovic saved all three of the break points he faced against Berrettini on Court Philippe-Chatrier, which was rocking with fans during most of the night session for the first time in the fortnight after the city of Paris extended its nightly curfew to 11 p.m. 

But even as fans were cleared out from the stadium in the middle of the fourth set, even when the Serbian lost his footing and cut open his left hand upon resumption, Djokovic never lost focus. With blood staining his racquet handle, the top seed let out a roar when he clinched the victory after three hours and 28 minutes.

“This match had it all: falls, crowd, break. It was a lot of intensity. I just felt under tension the entire time,” Djokovic said. “It was just super, super stressful to constantly be under pressure on my service games, because his service games were quite smooth with the big serve.

“The reaction in the end was just me liberating that tension that was building up for the entire match.”

Djokovic and Nadal’s semi-final meeting, which will be a rematch of last year’s final, as well as the 2014 and 2012 championship matches, will be the 58th matchup of the ATP Tour’s most prolific rivalry. The World No. 1, who lifted the trophy here in 2016, is seeking to become the first man in the Open Era to win every Grand Slam title twice, while Nadal is in the hunt for an all-time record 21st Grand Slam crown. Djokovic leads Nadal 29-28 in their overall ATP Head2Head, while the Spaniard owns the 19-7 edge in clay-court matches. 

“The quality and the level of tennis that I’ve been playing in the last three, four weeks on clay – Rome, Belgrade and here – is giving me good sensations and feelings ahead of that match,” Djokovic said. “I’m confident. I believe I can win, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Let’s have a great battle.”

Djokovic’s victory over Berrettini also made him the second man in history to reach 40 Grand Slam semi-finals after Roger Federer. 

Most Grand Slam Men’s Singles SF Appearances (all-time)

 Player  Appearances
 Roger Federer   46
 Novak Djokovic  40
 Rafael Nadal  35
 Jimmy Connors  31
 Ivan Lendl  28

Djokovic, who faced a five-set battle against another Italian, #NextGenATP Lorenzo Musetti, in the previous round, needed a few games to get going against Berrettini, who enjoyed an extra day of rest after receiving a walkover from Roger Federer. 

With the fans willing on the Italian underdog, Berrettini raced out of the gates against Djokovic and used his booming groundstrokes to apply the pressure on his opponent’s serve. Berrettini created three break opportunities across Djokovic’s first four service games, but the World No. 1 held firm to save all three. 

Instead, it was Berrettini – who had only faced four break points in the whole tournament, and saved two of those points – who blinked first. The 2016 Roland Garros champion is one of the best returners in the game, and he was able to neutralise the Italian’s big serve. Djokovic forced his opponent to keep hitting one more ball, regularly forcing errors out of Berrettini – including a forehand that went long to hand him the decisive break at 2-1. 

Djokovic continued to pounce on the Berrettini second serve, allowing the Italian to win just 22 per cent (2/9) of those points, as he raised his level emphatically in the second set. Djokovic didn’t commit an unforced error until 5-2 on the scoreboard – by then, he was already up a double break and serving for the set.

But he was tested in the tight third set as Berrettini refused to wilt away. Djokovic was serving at a high level to stay in control, while the Italian saved one break point at 4-4 to keep them on serve as they went into a tie-break.

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Berrettini found more winners in the third set – 23 to Djokovic’s 14 – especially off the forehand wing, and that shot would prove to be the difference in the tie-break, earning him the first mini-break at 4/3. Djokovic battled back, leading by 5/4 and two points away from the match – but a forehand error followed by a backhand into the net, his fourth and fifth unforced errors of the set, gave Berrettini set point. The Italian converted with a searing forehand that Djokovic couldn’t handle to send them into a fourth set.

With both players on serve at 3-2, the match took another turn as the clock struck 11 p.m. in Paris, and fans had to clear out due to the city-wide curfew. After a 25-minute interruption, the players returned to a silent Chatrier – but there was more drama in store as Djokovic lost his footing and sliced his left hand open as Berrettini held serve. Djokovic never lost focus, despite being unable to bandage his hand in order to preserve his grip on the racquet. He stayed toe-to-toe with Berrettini, eventually earning three match points at 6-5, and outlasted the Italian from the baseline to seal the victory with a roar.

Berrettini was seeking to reach the semi-finals here for the first time, and equal his best Grand Slam performance (also 2019 US Open). He was also attempting to become just the second Italian man to take down the top seed at a Grand Slam in the Open Era – following in the footsteps of 1976 Roland Garros champion Adriano Panatta, who defeated No. 1 Bjorn Borg en route to the title.

“I’m really proud of myself, really proud of my team, what we achieved,” Berrettini reflected afterward. “I’m really happy, but at the same time I don’t want to stop here. I’m still young. This is my second quarter-finals in a Slam. I don’t want to stop here.”

Did You Know? 
Djokovic is bidding to become the first man in the Open Era – and only the third man in history – to win each of the four Grand Slams twice. Roy Emerson and Rod Laver are the only men to have won each Grand Slam on two or more occasions. 

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What Has Djokovic Done Better Than Nadal At Roland Garros?

  • Posted: Jun 09, 2021

Through four rounds at Roland Garros, tournament favourites, 13-time champion Rafael Nadal and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, have played hundreds of points. Statistically, very little has separated them.

Nadal’s clear advantage is that he has not lost a set. Only three of the Spaniard’s 12 sets have gone further than 6-3. The lefty is the only man in the Open Era to win four Grand Slam titles without losing a set, and he is trying to make it five this fortnight. Only his quarter-final opponent, Diego Schwartzman, has also reached the last eight without dropping a set.

Djokovic needed to rally from two sets down against #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti in the fourth round. But in reality, because the Serbian turned around that match so emphatically, he has stayed on par with Nadal — if not ahead of the Spaniard — in most statistical categories.

2021 Roland Garros Stats (Until QFs)

 Player  Novak Djokovic  Rafael Nadal
 Aces  30  17
 Double Faults  10  17
 1st Serve Pts Won  79.4% (197/248)  81.4% (162/199)
 2nd Serve Pts Won  54.2% (64/118)  52.3% (68/130)
 Return Pts Won  47.5% (173/364)  48% (162/337)
 Break Pts Saved  84.2% (16/19)  55.6% (10/18)
 Break Pts Converted  67.6% (25/37)  49.1% (26/53)
 Net Pts Won  65.6% (59/90)  78.7% (48/61)
 Winners   148  130
 Unforced Errors  103  105
 Time On Court  9:06  9:01
 Sets Lost  2  0

The most glaring difference between the two has been in the highest-pressure moments. Djokovic has excelled when facing break points and trying to convert break points. Entering this tournament, the World No. 1 had only saved 61.4 per cent of break points faced in 2021 according to Infosys ATP Stats. In Paris, he has saved 84.2 per cent of them, only losing his serve three times.

Djokovic has converted 67.6 per cent of his break opportunities, which is better than his pre-Roland Garros season mark of 44.2 per cent. Although Nadal has earned more service breaks through four matches (26-25), the Spaniard has only taken advantage of 49.1 per cent of his chances.

When you strip aces and double faults from Djokovic and Nadal’s winner and unforced error counts, they are extremely close. Outside of the serve, Nadal has hit 1.28 winners for every unforced error on the terre battue (113-88) and Djokovic has struck 1.27 winners per unforced error (118-93).

The lefty has enjoyed a lot of success coming to net. Nadal has won nearly 79 per cent of his net points compared to 65.6 per cent for Djokovic, and he might try to add to that against Schwartzman, who is a baseliner.

Nadal and Djokovic have also spent nearly the same amount of time on court to reach the quarter-finals. Djokovic has spent just five more minutes on the Parisian clay, despite his five-setter against Musetti, in which the Italian retired during the fifth set.

The all-time greats could meet in the semi-finals on Friday. But first, they will need to get through their quarter-finals on Wednesday, when Nadal battles Schwartzman and Djokovic takes on Matteo Berrettini.

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