Rafael Nadal entered Friday's Roland Garros semi-final encounter against world no. 1 Novak Djokovic with 105 victories from 107 clashes at his beloved Major! The 13-time champion had beaten Novak in the previous five matches on clay, most recently in May in Rome, and seven out of eight times at Roland Garros, not playing at his best but hoping for another good performance at his favorite court.
Nonetheless, Djokovic ruled Court Philippe-Chatrier last night, scoring a heroic 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 victory in four hours and 11 minutes to deliver Nadal's third Roland Garros loss, and the second that came from his hands!
It was a masterclass clash between two of the greatest players of all time, who pushed each other for over four hours on a memorable Parisian night. Djokovic made a terrible start, like in the last year's final, before finding his strokes and setting the pace that Nadal struggled to follow.
Novak responded well in the second set and stayed focused in the third to fend off a set point at 5-6 and grab the set in the tie break. Nadal had nothing more left in the tank after winning the opening two games of the fourth set, allowing Novak to rattle off six straight games and claim the victory in style.
Djokovic described the win as his most significant one out of 80 in Paris, honoring Nadal and everything he has achieved at Roland Garros since 2005. Novak called Rafael Nadal challenge at Roland Garros as climbing Mount Everest and said he was ready to give his best to achieve that for the second time in Paris in six years.
Novak Djokovic praised Rafael Nadal after beating him in the Roland Garros semis.
"It was definitely the best match I was ever part of at Roland Garros, and it among the top three encounters that I've ever played in my entire career.
The quality of tennis was high, and I faced my biggest rival on the court where he has had so much success over the past 15 years. The atmosphere was utterly electric, and both of us had a lot of support; it was just amazing.
It's hard to find words bigger than all the superlatives you can think of for Rafa's achievements at Roland Garros. He has been the most dominant player in Roland Garros history. He has lost three matches at this event in his entire career.
He's been playing here for almost two decades, and that achievement speaks for itself. The amount of wins that he has made on this court is incredible. Each time you step on the court with him, you know that you must climb Mount Everest to beat him.
I had won only once in our eight matches on Court Philippe-Chatrier; I tried to take some positives and some cues from that victory over Rafa in 2015 and implement those elements tonight, which worked out very nicely. It's one of these matches that I will remember for a very long time, not just because I won but because of the atmosphere and a special occasion," Novak Djokovic said.