'Rafael Nadal is best on this surface, but not unbeatable,' Novak Djokovic recalls



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'Rafael Nadal is best on this surface, but not unbeatable,' Novak Djokovic recalls

Over the last 16 years, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have forged one of the greatest rivalries in tennis history. Two legends have met 59 times, and the first duel came at Roland Garros 2006. Novak and Rafa met in one of the youngest quarter-finals at Majors, and the Spaniard moved through when the Serb retired after trailing 6-4, 6-4.

Djokovic pushed Nadal to the limits for an hour and 54 minutes in his first Major quarter-final before retiring due to physical issues. Rafa won 20 points more than Novak and worked hard for each of them after a valiant effort from the Serb.

Nadal got broken three times and turned half of the return points into five breaks that sent him two sets to love in front. Novak lost serve in the encounter's first game before firing his forehand to pull the break back and get his name on the scoreboard.

The Spaniard broke again in game three and cemented the advantage for 3-1. Novak closed the seventh game with an ace to remain within one break deficit and sprayed a backhand error in the next one to propel Rafa 5-3 up. Djokovic clinched the ninth game with a forehand winner to extend the battle before Nadal held at love to wrap up the opener in 47 minutes and gain a boost.

The Spaniard earned a break at the start of the second set and brought the second game home at 15 for a 2-0 lead. Struggling physically, Novak hit a double fault in the third game to fall 3-0 behind and called for a trainer for his left thigh.

Novak Djokovic spoke about Rafael Nadal after losing to him in Paris 2006.

Losing ground a bit after that break, Rafa got broken in the fourth game before stealing Novak's serve again following the Serb's loose drop shot.

Nadal sprayed a forehand error in game six to hand it to Djokovic before holding at love in game eight with a forehand winner for a 5-3 advantage. Serving for the set at 5-4, the defending champion fired a service winner for a hold at 15 and two sets to love lead.

Djokovic hit a loose backhand in the third set's first game and decided to quit and push Nadal into the semis. After the match, Djokovic stated that Nadal was not comfortable against him on the court, struggling to read his strokes and not looking that unbeatable.

"Rafa was not comfortable at the beginning. I think I had control of the match; I did not finish it the right way. Rafa is surely the best on this surface, but he's not unbeatable. I could win today, as he did not know how to play against me," Novak Djokovic said.