Seeking the 14th Roland Garros title, Rafael Nadal came to Paris after winning two titles on his beloved surface this spring. Nadal endured challenging encounters and match points in Barcelona and Rome to lift the first trophies of the season, hoping for more of the same in his 18th appearance at Roland Garros.
After not playing at his usual level in the last two months, Nadal defeated five rivals in Paris to reach the 14th semi-final and set a thrilling clash against Novak Djokovic. The Serb struggled in the previous two rounds against the Italian Lorenzo Musetti and Matteo Berrettini, dropping three sets but finding himself in the final four.
Facing each other for the 58th time, Novak defeated Rafa 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 in four hours and 11 minutes, beating Rafa for the second time at Roland Garros and describing it as his finest triumph in the French capital.
Rafael Nadal lost his third match at Roland Garros to Novak Djokovic in the semis.
Nadal lost serve eight times en route to the Roland Garros title last October.
Novak broke him as many times in this year's semis, overpowering the Spaniard with 50 winners and prevailing in four sets for his sixth Roland Garros final. Like last October, Nadal made a perfect start before losing ground, unable to follow Djokovic's pace and wasting his chance in the third set when Novak saved a set point to gain a massive boost.
Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic was pleased with Novak's performance, saying that Nadal was never that powerless like in that match. After wasting his opportunity in the closing stages of the third set, Nadal faded from the court in the fourth and suffered three straight breaks to propel Djokovic into the title clash versus Stefanos Tsitsipas.
"What happened in sets two, three and four is that I never saw Rafa so powerless at Roland Garros. I think Novak could have won the third set more quickly, but the overall quality was really high. 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.