Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have met nine times at Roland Garros since 2006, with the Spaniard scoring seven wins. Nadal has won only three matches in Paris since 2005, and Djokovic caused two of those defeats, beating Rafa in 2015 and repeating that last Friday in a thrilling semi-final.
When the draw came out, Rafa and Novak were predicted to set the semi-final clash, which they did after some troubles in the previous rounds. Novak battled past Lorenzo Musetti and Matteo Berrettini to advance into the semis, where he was ready to give his 120% against Rafa, unlike in 2020.
Last October, Nadal beat Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in the Roland Garros final, dominating from start to finish and securing his 13th Parisian trophy. Determined to change that and show his A-game, Novak served revenge and beat Rafa 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 in four hours and 11 minutes seven days ago for a place in the sixth Roland Garros final.
Despite a slow start, like eight months ago, Novak's coach Goran Ivanisevic was confident in his pupil's abilities, saying he was ready to stay on the court for 12 hours and throw everything he had at Rafa. Unlike in 2020, when he barely showed anything before the third set, Djokovic found the rhythm in the closing stages of the opening set, despite losing it.
Goran Ivanisevic compared Roland Garros matches between Djokovic and Nadal.
The Serb took charge in the second and fended off a set point in the third to build the advantage and leave the 13-time champion without anything left in the tank.
Carried by this momentum, Djokovic grabbed three straight breaks in the fourth set to dethrone Nadal and remain on the title course. Two days later, Novak came from two sets to love down against Stefanos Tsitsipas to lift the 19th Major title and move closer to Nadal and Federer.
"In comparison to 2020, Novak was ready to spend 12 hours on the court if necessary. Last year, Novak didn't show up, shortening the points and changing that on Friday, when he was ready to run and fight. Novak opened the points nicely and tamed Nadal's backhand, pushing hard and believing in his strokes even after some mistakes. There was nothing Rafa could do to change that," Goran Ivanisevic said.