ATP Roland Garros: Novak Djokovic downs Rafael Nadal to write history

For the third time in 108 encounters, Rafael Nadal lost a match at his beloved Roland Garros! In the clash of titans and the greatest players, Novak Djokovic overpowered the Spaniard 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 after four hours and 11 minutes and advanced into the final. It was Novak’s second win over Rafa at Roland Garros in nine encounters and the first in six years, reaching the 29th Major final where he plays against Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday. Novak converted eight out of 22 break chances and suffered six breaks, fending off a set point in the third set and sealing the deal in the fourth for one of his most significant victories in a career. The Serb hit 50 winners and 37 unforced errors, pushing the Spaniard to the limits and prevailing when it mattered the most to cross the finish line first. Novak forged the victory in the mid-range rallies from five to eight strokes where he destroyed Rafa, staying in touch in the shortest and most extended rallies to earn the 30th win over the greatest rival from 58 encounters.

Nadal saved break points in the opening game to gain a boost that he shifted into the following games. Rafa broke Novak in games two and four and produced two fine holds for a 5-0 lead, looking good to repeat the start of the last year’s final. Novak held in game six to end his downfall and avoid a bagel, starting to find his strokes and playing better in the crucial moments. Djokovic fended off three set points in games seven and eight to reduce the deficit and stay alive, with Nadal serving at 5-3. The Spaniard wasted a 40-0 lead before converting the seventh set point for 6-3 after almost an hour! Novak raised his level in set number two after that solid closure of the opener, fending off five out of six break opportunities and earning two breaks to grab the set and extend his chances. They traded breaks in games two and three, and Djokovic scored another for a 4-2 advantage.

Novak Djokovic overpowered Rafael Nadal in four sets at Roland Garros.

In one of the crucial moments of the entire encounter, Novak erased five break points in games seven and nine for 6-3, proving he is ready to challenge a great rival and beat him for the second time in Paris. Unable to find solutions and penetrate Novak, Rafa netted a drop shot at 2-2 in the third set to fall behind before pulling the break back a few minutes later with a forehand down the line winner for 3-3. Staying focused, Novak grabbed a break at love in game seven when Rafa netted a forehand to secure another lead, looking good to move two sets to one in front. After that game, Nadal had a slight advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes, like in Rome, with Djokovic erasing that deficit in the mid-range exchanges, where he won 16 points more. Novak saved a break point in the eighth game with a massive forehand to remain in front, serving for the set at 5-4.

Having one last chance to prolong the set, Nadal broke back when Djokovic sprayed a backhand error to level the score at 5-5 and extend the drama after three hours! The Spaniard fired a smash winner in the 11th game to save a break point, landed a forehand winner to erase the second and held with two powerful serves for a 6-5 lead. Novak saved a set point with a perfect drop shot in game 12 and produced a vital hold to set a tie break. Nadal sent a volley long at 3-4 to fall behind, and Djokovic secured the breaker at 6-4 to move a set away from the finish line after three and a half hours. Novak took charge from 2-0 down in the fourth set and claimed four straight games to open a 4-2 advantage and gain another boost. The Serb landed a drop shot winner to move 5-2 ahead and grabbed another break in game eight to seal the deal and reach the final.