French Open: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal’s most memorable matches ahead of their semi-final
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will clash for the 58th time in the semi-finals of the French Open on Friday. The Spaniard owns a 105-2 career record at Roland Garros. The world No 1 is responsible for one of those defeats, so can he do it again?
Djokovic leads 29-28 and is looking for his first win on clay over his great rival in five years (Rome, 2016). But playing Nadal on Court Philippe Chatrier is by far the biggest challenge in sport.
If the Serb lets Nadal get ahead there may be no stopping him. The 13-time champion may have seen his 36-set winning streak come to an end at the hands of Diego Schwartzman, but the Spaniard is a remarkable front-runner in Grand Slams, with a record of 251-5 when winning the first set.
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A warning for Djokovic, Nadal is 13-0 in Roland Garros semi-finals. He also leads the world No 1 19-7 overall on clay and he is 7-1 in Paris with Djokovic’s 7-5 6-3 6-1 quarter-final victory coming in 2015. Will he repeat that famous clay feat?
Here, we pick out five of their most memorable battles…
2009, Madrid Masters final, Nadal won 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (11-9)
The Caja Magica was the venue for one of the greatest three-set matches in men’s tennis history. Djokovic was bidding for his first win over Nadal on clay and held three match points but, after four hours and two minutes, it was the Spaniard who came out on top.
2010, US Open final, Nadal won 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-2
Their first major final clash saw Nadal win in four sets to complete the career Grand Slam. Djokovic had won an epic semi-final against Roger Federer and in the end could not quite match his rival, while, perhaps in an omen for this tournament, strong serving from the Spaniard was a key factor.
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Djokovic vs Nadal: Tale of the Tape
2012, Australian Open final, Djokovic won 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5
This was a contest that cannot be forgotten. The two men battled each other to exhaustion over five hours and 53 minutes, the longest Grand Slam final in history. Chairs were brought out so they did not have to stand during the trophy ceremony.
2013, French Open semi-final, Nadal won 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 9-7
Djokovic had been getting closer to Nadal at Roland Garros and this was the match that saw them meet as equals. Djokovic led by a break in the decider as he chased the title he wanted more than any other but was penalised for leaning over the net at a key moment and could not hold on.
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2018, Wimbledon semi-final, Djokovic won 6-4 3-6 7-6 (11-9) 3-6 10-8
This was another classic played over two days because of the epic battle between Kevin Anderson and John Isner that preceded it. When play was called off for the night, Djokovic had won a third set he looked set to lose. Nadal broke twice in the fourth set to send the clash into a fifth set which had plenty of twists and turns until the Serb converted his second match point to edge a dramatic decider.
Their last meeting in a Grand Slam was in the final of the 2020 French Open, which Nadal won against his long-time challenger, 6-0 6-2 7-5 win, which clinched a record-extending 13th title and 20th Grand Slam overall for the Spaniard.
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