Last Sunday, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic stepped on Court Philippe-Chatrier, preparing for the title match at Roland Garros. In one of the most important encounters of the 21st century, the 12-time champion Nadal took down world no.
1 Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and 41 minutes following an almost flawless performance, securing the 13th title in Paris and the 20th Major overall. Standing withing two Majors from each other, Djokovic was eager to take another step closer to Nadal in the GOAT race, making the slowest start and ruining his chances for taking the second Major of the season.
Nadal produced a clear gameplan, delivering aggressive tennis that surprised Djokovic and blew him off the court in the opening two sets. The Serb recovered his game in the third to avoid disaster, staying in touch until 5-5 before Rafa grabbed a crucial break that carried him towards the finish line.
The famous coach Patrick Mouratoglou said that Novak Djokovic wasn't ready to challenge Nadal on that day, making a slow start and searching for the right shots. On the other hand, Rafa knew what he had to do right from the start, choosing the right tactic that secured the title for him.
Nadal had 31 winners and 14 unforced errors and stole 51% of the return points to control the scoreboard. Novak sprayed 52 unforced errors, searching for his A-game for more than two hours and suffering 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. Just like in the 2008 final against Roger Federer, Nadal delivered a bagel to Novak in the opening set, playing almost flawless tennis and providing three breaks against the world's leading player, finishing it with an ace at 5-0 after 45 minutes.
Patrick Mouratoglou blames slow start for Novak Djokovic's loss to Nadal.
Rafa faced no break points in set number two, taming his strokes nicely and overpowering Djokovic for another rock-solid set of tennis that propelled him 6-0, 6-2 in front after an hour and 34 minutes.
Djokovic saved a break chance in the third game of the third set and raised his level. Rafa broke him at love at 2-2, but instead of building on that, he suffered a break for the first and only time a few minutes later, providing Djokovic with a necessary boost that made him a contender again.
With no room for errors, Nadal held comfortably in games eight, ten and 12, earning a break at 5-5 after a double fault from Novak and sealing the deal with a hold at love for the 20th Major crown. "Of course Rafa played his match, and that's a good thing about him.
You are never disappointed, as he always plays his match. Whether he wins or loses, Rafa is always there, starting the encounter solidly and seeing what's happening, stepping up if he needs to. That's exactly what Novak didn't do from the start.
You could feel something wrong because he was looking for easy points, trying drop shots here and there, like those four drop shots in the first game. Novak wasn't prepared to rally and go for it and hit winners to give himself the chance to win that match.
He didn't enter the court playing with the same mindset as the one we know. It happens to everyone, that's why tennis is interesting because it's not only about entering and playing your match there are many other aspects. The mental aspect is huge," Patrick Mouratoglou said.