Fifteen years after their first clash in Paris, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will battle for a place in the final at Roland Garros. The most successful players at Majors in the last ten years are still capable of fighting for Major crowns, setting a thrilling semi-final duel that should go down to the wire if they both produce their best tennis.
Last October, Rafa and Novak were the opponents in the title clash in Paris, and the king of clay delivered a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory in two hours and 41 minutes following an almost flawless performance, securing the 13th title in Paris and the milestone 20th Major.
Novak is eager to change that on Friday, feeling confident about his game and hoping to score the second win over Rafa at Roland Garros. Djokovic admitted that he couldn’t do much to stop Rafa in Paris last year, winning only seven games and not playing at his best following a marathon semi-final duel against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Nadal had 31 winners and 14 unforced errors and stole 51% of the return points to control the scoreboard and bring the victory home in style. Novak sprayed 52 unforced errors and suffered a massive loss despite a solid effort in set number three.
Rafa lost serve once and grabbed seven breaks from 18 opportunities, pushing strong on the return and outplaying Novak in the shortest range up to four strokes to forge the triumph. Like in 2008 final against Roger Federer, Nadal delivered a bagel in the opening set after playing almost flawless tennis, finishing it with an ace after 45 minutes.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will battle at Roland Garros for second straight year.
Rafa faced no break points in set number two and tamed his strokes nicely to overpower Novak for another rock-solid set of tennis that propelled him towards a 6-0, 6-2 lead after an hour and 34 minutes.
Djokovic saved a break chance in the third set’s third game and raised his level to become more competitive. Rafa broke him at love at 2-2, but instead of building on that, he suffered the only break a few minutes later to provide Djokovic with a necessary boost.
With no room for errors, Nadal held comfortably in games eight, ten and 12 and earned a break at 5-5 following Novak’s double fault before sealing the deal with a hold at love for the 20th Major crown. “Obviously, it is the anticipated semi-final; many people have talked about this match since the draw came out, and here we are.
We have had great battles on this court over the years. Last year, Rafa was the dominant figure in the final. Nonetheless, the conditions will be different on Friday. I hope to reach a high level right from the start and avoid the outcome of the last year’s opening two sets.
The level of tennis that I have shown in the previous three or four weeks on clay in Rome, Belgrade and here in Paris gives me good feelings for this match. I feel confident to be able to beat Rafa. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. It will be a great battle,” Novak Djokovic said.