Rafael Nadal surpasses Novak Djokovic in a thriller

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic played their first match in the 2006 Roland Garros quarterfinals. Sixteen years later, two great rivals met in the same round, in what was the final before the final. Novak and Rafa produced another memorable clash on Court Philippe-Chatrier, and Nadal scored a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 triumph in hours and 12 minutes.

Thus, the Spaniard advanced to his 15th semifinal after 18 trips to Paris and added his 29th victory over the Serb in 59 games. It was his tenth duel at Roland Garros and the eighth victory for Rafa, who avenged last year’s defeat in the semifinals.

Despite the cold, heavy and slow conditions on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Nadal produced his best game to beat Djokovic after another memorable marathon. Novak rallied in the second set and threw everything he had at Rafa in the fourth, only to lose set point and drop a tiebreaker.

Rafa made the difference with his second serve, keeping it safe and dominating Novak in key moments. Nadal saved eight of 12 break chances and converted 43% of return points on seven breaks of 17 chances.

The Spaniard set the pace with 57 winners and 43 unforced errors, leaving the Serb with a 48-53 ratio. Unlike 12 months ago, Rafa had a huge advantage at the shorter range down to four shots. He outplayed Novak in the longer exchanges to seal the deal in four sets and preserve some energy for the semifinal clash with Alexander Zverev.

Nadal got off to a great start, placing his shots on the line and spreading Djokovic over the baseline. Rafa converted the third break chance in the opening game of the encounter to gain an early lead. The Spaniard fired a forehand down the line winner in the fifth game to grab another break and open up a 4-1 lead.

Novak held at 15 in game seven to extend the set, and Rafa closed it out with a service winner in the next for 6-2 in 49 minutes. The second set turned into an open war that lasted almost an hour and a half!

Rafael Nadal edged out Novak Djokovic for his 15th Roland Garros semifinal.

Nadal parlayed two early breaks for a 3-0 lead before losing six of the next seven games and putting Djokovic back on the scoresheet.

Rafa wasted multiple game points at 3-2, and Novak converted the fifth break chance after the opponent’s rogue reverse for 3-3. The Serb broke again in the tenth game to take the set 6-4 and level the overall score after two hours and 16 minutes!

Rafa restored order in set number three, mastering his shots very well and producing a double break to win 6-2 and get closer to the finish line. Nadal survived the fourth game of the third set to move to a 3-1 lead and broke Djokovic again in the next after a loose backhand from Novak.

The Spaniard held on at 30 in the eighth match 6-2 and two sets to one advantage after three hours. With no room for error, Novak rattled off an impressive four holds in the fourth set and grabbed an early break to open a 5-2 gap.

Djokovic served for the set at 5-3 and wasted two set points, allowing Nadal to rally with a forehand cross and extend the set. Both served well in the remaining three games to introduce a tiebreaker.

Djokovic couldn’t find his range and went down 6-1 after a loose shot. The Serb saved three match points and cut the deficit to 6-4 with a forehand cross winner. Nadal fired a backhand down the line winner on the eleventh point for a massive celebration and a place in the last four.

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