The world number 1 Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal in the semifinals of the French Open, crushing the Spaniard's hopes of sprinting past Roger Federer's record of winning 20 Grand Slam titles.
Djokovic defeated Nadal 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 in a gruelling four hour-22-minute contest. Nadal has an impressive 7-1 record against the Serb and was the favourite to win the match and meet Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
But it was not Nadal's day on the court on Friday. Though he the first set with a 6-3 margin, the Serb bounced back in the second set, claiming it 6-3.
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The Serb, who was also the last player to beat Nadal in the French Open back in the 2015 quarter-finals, then took the second set. The seventh game was the heart of the set, indeed the match, as neither gave an inch.
Djokovic played some beautiful shots, some cross-courts even as he made some glaring errors. But the game that went on for over 10 minutes saw Nadal hitting the ball outside the court on number of occasions and being forced to commit errors. The ninth game too stretched for long before the Serb sealed it. He won the set 6-3.
The third set, which saw heavy duty and sparring tennis, went into a tie-breaker after Djokovic had broken a tired looking Nadal in the fifth game. Nadal broke back in the sixth game.
The see-saw battle went on before the top seed sealed the set 7-4 in tie-break and took a 2-1 lead after three sets.
The fourth set saw unrelenting Nadal breaking Djokovic but then the Serb won the final six games to seal a place in the final against Tsitsipas.
While Djokovic won 64 percent points on his first serve and 55 percent on second serve, Nadal won 59 percent on first and 49 percent on second. The Serb converted eight of the 22 break-points he got as against six out of 16 by Nadal.
The biggest difference though were the double faults. Nadal committed eight of them against Djokovic's three.
Between 2005, when he won his first French Open and 2020 when he won his last of the 13, Nadal had not won the title at Roland Garros only on three occasions --- in 2009, when he lost to Robin Soderling in the fourth round; in 2015, when he lost to Djokovic in the quarter-finals and in 2016 when he had to pull out of the third round due to injury.