‘Rafael Nadal did not know how to play against me, I controlled..,’ Djokovic recalls

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic met for the first time on Court Philippe-Chatrier in the 2006 Roland Garros quarter-final. It’s the first Major quarter-final for the young Serb, and he gave his best against the defending champion and made Nadal run for his money before retiring while trailing 6-4, 6-4 after an hour and 54 minutes. 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 converted 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 before Nadal held at love to wrap up the opener in 47 minutes and gain a boost. At the beginning of the second set, the Spaniard earned a break 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. In game six, Nadal sprayed a forehand error 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. In the third set’s opening game, Djokovic hit a loose backhand 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. For sure, Rafa is 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.