Djokovic Dethrones Nadal After Roland Garos Epic

Novak Djokovic did the unimaginable by beating Rafael Nadal at the French mở cửa in a high quality, one-for-the-ages contest.


Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal in a French mở cửa match for just the third time in 16 years. AP

Based on the energy on display, volume of the crowd, activity on social media, buzz around the contest, you would think the men’s final was played on a Friday instead of a Sunday. Except, this was a semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the French Open. A 58th meeting in the “RAFOLE” rivalry. Djokovic had won 29 of the 57 and on Day 13 at Roland Garros, he made it 30 and it felt like one of the biggest.

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Djokovic triumphed 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 in over four hours lớn hand Nadal just his third defeat in 108 matches over the course of 16 years at the French Open. The only two players lớn have beaten the Spaniard before this were Robin Soderling (2009) và Djokovic himself (2015). With the win, Djokovic kept his dream of a 19th major alive & an opportunity lớn become the first man in over 50 years to lớn win all four Grand Slams twice.

Djokovic would put himself khổng lồ the thử nghiệm against Stefanos Tsitsipas, in the final, who is fast emerging as one of the best players on clay. Before we get lớn that stage, a look at the talking points after the Serbian"s sensational win against Nadal.

Nadal’s errors, double faults rise

Nadal accounted for 55 unforced errors in the match và eight double faults. This was higher than his tournament average of 31 và four respectively. The difference between the two in the unforced error count changed dramatically as the match went on. In the first, both had 12 unforced errors each, it tipped by two points in Djokovic’s favour in the second set & by a staggering 13 points in the third set. In the fourth, Nadal reigned in on the mistakes, but it was too late by then.

What an effort,
RafaelNadal #RolandGarros

— Roland-Garros (
rolandgarros) June 11, 2021

One major factor was the pressure created by Djokovic. With the Serbian covering the lines, putting on a great defensive show & chasing down repeatedly, Nadal was made to lớn go for the sidelines và baselines a lot more. In the second set, Djokovic switched tactics & made Nadal play more balls on the backhand, the weaker of the two wings, as against the forehand in the first set. In the second, Nadal made seven backhand unforced errors compared khổng lồ just one on the forehand. In the third set, the World No 3 missed on both sides for a 9-8 ratio.

Uncharacteristic Nadal

Beyond the unforced errors & poor serve, Nadal didn’t capitalise on glorious opportunities. In a match of numerous turning points and decisive moments, two stood out. These moments are ones that could be construed as the difference makers. Such a moment arrived at 5-6 in the third mix with Djokovic on second serve down a set point. The two players played a cagey point which Djokovic won after a well-played drop shot. Through the course of the rally, Nadal was cagey và cautious of his groundstrokes. He opted to keep the rally going with hopes of finding an error. Instead, Djokovic pulled off a gorgeous drop shot that Nadal was unable khổng lồ pick up.

But arguably the bigger moment or bigger miss arrived in the tiebreak. At 3-4, Nadal played a great half-volley khổng lồ prolong the point only khổng lồ squander it with a miserable volley. Usually incredible at the net, Nadal kept the racket face mở cửa way too much only khổng lồ overcook the simple shot và send it long.

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Rafael Nadal speaks with press following his semifinal loss to lớn Novak Djokovic.#RolandGarros

— Tennis Channel (
TennisChannel) June 11, 2021

Had Nadal made the most of these chances, we might have had a different outcome. But he says that’s part of the package. “These kinds of mistakes happen. But if you want lớn win, you can’t make mistakes,” the 13-time French mở cửa champion said in the press conference.

Conditions help Djokovic

With Stefanos Tsitsipas & Alexander Zverev going into five sets và just over 3.5 hours, this second semi-final got pushed further. From the scheduled 5.30 PM local time (9 PM IST), it only got underway an hour and half later. The early exchanges were played in front of a bit of sunshine which saw Nadal run off khổng lồ a 5-0 lead. But as the sun started lớn dip, the impact of Nadal’s whipped forehand reduced.

Additionally, the cooler conditions played a role with the ball not bouncing up as much as it can. The Spaniard said in the press conference, “The conditions were a little bit slower later on. We had been playing when it was warm & high bounces. When we play at night, the situation goes the other way. The ball bounces less, gets less vị trí cao nhất spin and that’s more favourable for him.”

Djokovic learned & adapted

match#RolandGarros |

— Roland-Garros (
rolandgarros) June 11, 2021

It was already visible in the Rome final but today it became clearer: Djokovic had shed the strategy of drop shots on clay against Nadal. In last year’s French mở cửa final, Djokovic played plethora of drop shots. In the first two sets, he hit 18 drop shots — four of them in the very first game — with success in 11 of them. But what it ended up doing is impacting his strategy in other departments. Not tonight.

Tonight, Djokovic used his drop shot smartly. At no point was it his go-to shot or something he relied on heavily. The World No 1 stuck to lớn his core competencies – hit well from the back of the court, force the opponent into making mistakes, chase down balls as if his life depended on it và then, if needed, throw in a surprise serve-and-volley or drop shot.

G.O.A.T. Race

Celebration beyond earned #RolandGarros |

— Roland-Garros (
rolandgarros) June 11, 2021

While the title is not decided, the discussions have already begun. Lớn bring the reader up to lớn speed, Roger Federer và Nadal are locked at đôi mươi Grand Slams each with Djokovic on 18. With Nadal out of the picture & Federer pulling out earlier, Djokovic has a fabulous opportunity to lớn reduce the deficit come Sunday.

In Djokovic’s path stands first-time finalist Tsitsipas who beat Zverev earlier. The fact that Novak could reduce the deficit on Nadal (and Federer), at his “living room” Slam, helps his credentials for G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) even further. For all we know, we might have 21 Slam winners by end of 2021.