Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic played their first match in the 2006 Roland Garros quarter-final. Sixteen years later, two great rivals met in the same round, in what was the final before the final. Novak and Rafa produced another memorable clash on Court Philippe-Chatrier, and Nadal scored a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 triumph in hour hours and 12 minutes.
Thus, the Spaniard advanced to his 15th semi-final from 18 trips to Paris and scored his 29th win over the Serb from 59 encounters. It was their tenth Roland Garros duel and the eighth win for Rafa, who avenged the last year’s semi-final loss.
Despite the cold, heavy and slow conditions on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Nadal produced his A-game to beat Djokovic after another memorable marathon. Novak recovered in the second set and threw everything he had at Rafa in the fourth, only to miss a set point and drop a tie break.
Rafa made the difference with his second serve, keeping it safe and overpowering Novak in the pivotal moments. Nadal saved eight out of 12 break chances and turned 43% of the return points into seven breaks from 17 opportunities.
The Spaniard dictated the pace with 57 winners and 43 unforced errors, leaving the Serb on a 48-53 ratio. Unlike 12 months ago, Rafa had a massive advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes. He overpowered Novak in the most extended exchanges to seal the deal in four sets and preserve some energy for the semi-final clash with Alexander Zverev.
Nadal was off to a flying start, placing his down the line strokes and spreading Djokovic over the baseline. Rafa seized the third break chance in the encounter’s opening game for an early advantage. The Spaniard cracked a forehand down the line winner in the fifth game to grab another break and open a 4-1 lead.
Novak held at 15 in game seven to prolong the set, and Rafa wrapped it up with a service winner in the next one for 6-2 in 49 minutes. The second set turned into an open war that lasted almost an hour and a half!
Rafael Nadal overpowered Novak Djokovic for his 15th Roland Garros semi-final.
Nadal seized two early breaks for a 3-0 advantage before dropping six of the next seven games and bringing Djokovic back to the scoreboard.
Rafa squandered multiple game points at 3-2, and Novak seized the fifth break chance after the rival’s wayward backhand for 3-3. The Serb broke again in game ten to take the set 6-4 and level the overall score after two hours and 16 minutes!
Rafa restored the order in set number three, taming his strokes nicely and producing a double break to win it 6-2 and move closer to the finish line. Nadal survived the third set’s fourth game to move 3-1 in front and broke Djokovic again in the next one after Novak’s loose backhand.
The Spaniard held at 30 in the eighth game for 6-2 and two sets to one advantage after three hours. With no room for errors, Novak rattled off four impressive holds in the fourth set and grabbed an early break to open a 5-2 gap.
Djokovic served for the set at 5-3 and squandered two set points, allowing Nadal to break back with a forehand crosscourt winner and extend the set. They both served well in the remaining three games to introduce a tie break.
Djokovic failed to find his range and fell 6-1 down after a loose drop shot. The Serb saved three match points and reduced the deficit to 6-4 with a forehand crosscourt return winner. Nadal cracked a backhand down the line winner in the 11th point for a massive celebration and a place in the last four.