Novak Djokovic's Triple Threat: Essential Wins over Rafael Nadal

Novak Djokovic leads Rafael Nadal 30-29 after 59 encounters

by Jovica Ilic
Novak Djokovic's Triple Threat: Essential Wins over Rafael Nadal
© Lucas Dawson / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Novak Djokovic will seek his third Monte Carlo title this week, hoping to lift his first ATP title of the season. Before his first match, Novak spoke about his rivalry with Rafael Nadal, citing three of his most essential triumphs over his greatest opponent.

Djokovic and Nadal have met 59 times on the ATP Tour, forging the most extended rivalry in the Open era. Novak has won 30 of those, edging his great rival and vividly remembering three duels between 2012 and 2015. The Serb mentioned that epic 2012 Australian Open final, the longest Major final in tennis history!

Novak overpowered Rafa 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5 after five hours and 53 minutes, with two rivals throwing everything at each other after a herculean effort!

Novak Djokovic, Australian Open 2012© Robert Prezioso / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

It was one of the most demanding tennis encounters ever, both physically and mentally, with Novak prevailing after a notable turnaround in the decider.

Nadal battled hard in the fourth set, prolonging the battle and standing one routine backhand from a massive advantage in the final set. However, he missed it, and Djokovic emerged at the top with a late break, lifting a trophy and writing history books.

Novak created 20 break opportunities, seizing seven and losing serve only four times, considering they battled for almost six hours. They stayed neck and neck in the shortest and most extended exchanges, and Djokovic forged the lead in the mid-range rallies.

An impressive battle was on right from the start, with two great rivals fighting for 40 minutes to complete the first six games! The Spaniard led 4-2 before the Serb responded in the next three games, opening a 5-4 advantage.

Nadal stayed focused, leveling the score at 5-5 and securing a break in game 11 after Djokovic's backhand error. Rafa converted the third set point at 6-5, sealing the opener after an hour and 20 minutes! They stayed neck and neck in the second set, and Rafa served to prolong it at 4-5.

The Spaniard hit a costly double fault, allowing the Serb to steal the set and level the overall score. Novak used that momentum and overpowered Rafa in the third set, taking it 6-2 and moving closer to the title defense.

Novak Djokovic, Monte Carlo 2013© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Novak Djokovic revealed his most important wins over Rafael Nadal.

Refusing to surrender, Nadal endured all the efforts in the fourth set, clinching it in the tie break after almost 90 minutes.

Novak sprayed a forehand error at 5-6 in the breaker, and they introduced the final set after four hours and 40 minutes! Rafa forged a 4-2 advantage and looked good to seal the deal, leading 30-15 in game seven and hitting a routine backhand.

However, he missed it and lost serve, allowing Novak to break back and return to the positive side. The Spaniard denied a break point in the ninth game and landed a service winner, moving 5-4 up and keeping the pressure on the Serb.

Novak produced a hold at 15 in game ten and made one final push on the return in the next one. Nadal missed a backhand slice, losing serve and allowing Djokovic to serve for the title at 6-5.

Rafael Nadal & Novak Djokovic, Roland Garros 2015© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Novak did that in style, painting a forehand winner and celebrating one of the brightest moments of his career.

A year later, Djokovic and Nadal met in their third Monte Carlo final. Novak scored a 6-2, 7-6 victory in an hour and 52 minutes, celebrating his first title in the Principality and the third clay-court win over his great rival.

Thus, Nadal ended his incredible winning streak in Monte Carlo, losing a match for the first time since 2003 and 46 straight wins! Novak lost serve three times and took over half of the return points, turning them into five breaks from 12 opportunities.

Djokovic hit more winners than unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and sealing the deal in straight sets after a tight battle in the second. Novak grabbed an early lead and gained confidence, opening a 5-0 advantage and almost bageling the king of clay!

Nadal denied five set points on serve in the sixth game, extending the battle and pulling one break back in game seven. However, Djokovic broke again at 5-2, wrapping up the opener in style. Rafa raised his level in the second set, serving well and breaking Novak in game five.

Djokovic pulled the break back in game eight before dropping serve again in game 11, with Nadal serving for the set at 6-5. The Spaniard failed to bring it home, getting broken at love after the Serb's backhand winner. Novak gained a boost and dominated the tie break, ending Rafa's Monte Carlo streak and lifting his first trophy at his home event.

Novak Djokovic, Roland Garros 2015© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Two years later, Djokovic delivered his first Roland Garros win over Nadal, becoming Rafa's second conqueror in Paris. They met in the quarter-final, and Djokovic earned a commanding 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 win in under two and a half hours, dethroning the king of clay and remaining on the title course.

Novak played better behind the first and second serve, losing serve two times and creating 18 break chances! The Serb seized seven, prevailing in the closing stages of the opener and leaving the Spaniard far behind in sets two and three.

Djokovic dominated with his aggressive approach, taming his strokes nicely and destroying Nadal in the mid-range exchanges. Rafa bounced back from 0-4 in the opening set and saved three set points on serve in the tenth game.

However, Novak secured a break in the 12th game, wrapping up the opener and never looking back. The Spaniard stayed in touch until 3-3 in the second set before the Serb shifted into a higher gear, rattling off nine of the final ten games for a rock-solid victory.

Novak Djokovic Rafael Nadal