Image Source: LA Times
Many circumstances pointed in the direction of Novak Djokovic when the two greatest rivals in men’s tennis met again at the French Open. While he and Rafael Nadal both entered the clay court season with a lot of doubts, only Djokovic has made significant progress since then. Meanwhile, Nadal continued to look for his best form following a rib fracture. Due to a flare-up of his persistent foot condition, his preparation was hampered. So far, he’s had a poor showing in Paris.
Rafael Nadal, on the other hand. Roland Garros, to be precise. He is the man who has won 110 games in his house with only three losses in 17 years, demonstrating that form and other trivial matters little in the face of utter, historic supremacy. In a match that lasted from May to June, Nadal blew Djokovic away in the first set, then shook off multiple strong comebacks and immense pressure to win 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) at 1:15 a.m. local time after four hours and eleven minutes.
“It was a very difficult match,” Nadal remarked of his opponent. “Without a doubt, Novak is one of the greatest players ever.” It’s an incredible challenge to always be up against him. “Today was another another chapter in our shared history.”
When Nadal arrived on his court, he immediately set the tone by forcing his way inside the baseline and attempting to unload on his forehand down the line, the historic barometer of his confidence. Nadal broke Djokovic’s serve in the first game after several deuces over the numerous tight early games. Djokovic struggled in the first set as a brilliant Nadal marched through. With a double break, Nadal established a 6-2, 3-0 lead. His backhand sprayed unusual unforced errors, returns landed short, and he struggled to keep up.
It was only a matter of time before Djokovic made his presence known, and he did so right now. With his return, he scythed Nadal’s serve down and slowly pushed up the baseline, dictating the exchanges by smashing the ball and pressing Nadal’s forehand. He came back to tie the match by winning six of the following seven games, but only after an 88-minute set of long, punishing deuce games.
Djokovic’s level soared, but only for a short time. Nadal began the third set by constantly attempting to reach the net, and he eventually overwhelmed a mediocre Djokovic. The momentum, on the other hand, swung in the opposite direction. As he broke serve in Nadal’s first service game of the fourth set, Djokovic had returned to the top of the baseline, placing continual pressure on Nadal and giving himself a chance to serve out the set. He was up 5-2 until Nadal came back, saving two set chances at 5-3 before breaking with an inside out forehand winner.
“There is just one way to beat Novak: play your best tennis from the opening to the last point.” For me, tonight was one of those nights. “I’m ecstatic,” Nadal remarked.
Djokovic later admitted that he had been second best on the day, saying, “I know I could have played better.” “I’m proud of how hard I fought and how long I stayed until the final shot.” I lost to a better player today, as I previously stated. My chances were there. They went unused. This concludes the discussion. “I had to accept this defeat after a four-hour war.”