Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal in a thriller Roland Garros semi-final on Friday evening, earning one of the biggest wins of his career. It was one of the best matches of the season, full of twists and turns and great tennis.
Nadal was 105-2 in clay-court Grand Slams and 7-1 in this tournament against him, so the odds were not in the favor of the world number 1. However, Djokovic won 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 in four hours and 22 minutes, demonstrating great mental toughness and athletic prowess.
Djokovic said after the match, “it was for sure the most beautiful match I’ve played here in Paris”.
Djokovic never wavered against the 13-time champion throughout. He will now face Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals Champion, in the Coupe des Mousquetaires.
Nadal was chasing a record 21st Grand Slam championship, which would have put him on top of the all-time list, surpassing Roger Federer. But Djokovic is currently one win away from completing his second career Grand Slam and winning his 19th major title, putting him one win above Federer and Nadal.
The contest was held before a lively audience on Court Philippe-Chatrier, who were allowed to stay for the entire event despite a curfew in France.
“You tell yourself there is no pressure, but there is a lot of pressure, trust me”, confessed Djokovic after the clash.
The third set was crucial in the tie. It played out like a heavyweight match, with both aces exchanging haymakers. They displayed remarkable shotmaking, athleticism, and mental toughness in one of the finest sets in recent history, which featured four service breaks and 14 breakpoints.
From the first point of the opening set, Nadal attacked tirelessly, pushing Djokovic to try to play offence from awkward places on the court. The Serbian had luck launching balls at the lefty’s forehand at times, but struggled with his drop shot, much like he did in the championship match on this court last year. Despite the relentless efforts from the Spaniard, Djokovic came up big and secured his spot in the final.