Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I played a perfect match against Novak Djokovic in Paris'

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Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I played a perfect match against Novak Djokovic in Paris'

After a short season caused by the pandemic, Rafael Nadal secured the 20th Major crown at the last year's Roland Garros in October. It was Nadal's second tournament since the end of February, and he had to battle against both his opponents and challenging conditions in Paris.

Passing all the obstacles, Rafa toppled all seven rivals in straight sets and matched Roger Federer's Major record in style. The Spaniard raced past the opening four opponents before facing Jannik Sinner in the quarters. The youngster served for the opener and had a break lead in set number two before Rafa prevailed in straight sets.

Diego Schwartzman kept Nadal on the court for over three hours in the semis, and the 12-time champion earned a 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 triumph to set the title clash against Novak Djokovic. In a battle of the world's finest players, Nadal toppled Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and 41 minutes to lift the 13th trophy from 16 trips to Paris.

Rafa had to bring aggressive and bold tennis against Novak, losing many matches against the Serb since Beijing 2013 and delivering the right tactic to leave Novak far behind, at least in the opening two sets. Nadal fired 31 winners and 14 unforced errors, performing strongly from both wings and taking 51% of the return points to remove the power from Djokovic's initial shot.

Djokovic sprayed 52 unforced errors, searching for his A-game for over two hours and suffering a massive loss despite a solid effort in set number three, where he stayed in touch with Nadal. Rafa lost serve once and produced seven breaks to outplay Novak in the shortest range up to four strokes to forge the crucial difference.

Rafael Nadal lost only seven games against Novak Djokovic in Paris last year.

Nadal earned a bagel in the opening set, the first in the Roland Garros finals since 2008 when he served one to Roger Federer. In set number two, Rafa faced no break points and tamed his strokes nicely to secure two breaks and open a 6-0, 6-2 advantage in an hour and 34 minutes.

Eager to avoid disaster, Djokovic pulled the break back in the third set's sixth game, roaring towards his box and gaining momentum. With no room for further errors, Nadal held comfortably in games eight, ten and 12 and grabbed a break at 5-5 after Novak's double fault to seal the deal with a hold at love a few minutes later.

This June, Djokovic avenged this tough loss in the Roland Garros semi-final, beating Nadal in the semi-final en route to his second Roland Garros crown. "Stamping my authority is not my thing. I played an excellent tournament given the conditions and took steps forward every day. My game was perfect against Novak Djokovic in the final," Rafael Nadal said.