Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are set to face each other in a French Open match for the 10th time in their careers. Here’s what happened in their previous nine meetings at Roland Garros.
French Open 2006 – Djokovic retires after trailing 4-6, 4-6
The 2006 French Open quarterfinal was the first time Nadal and Djokovic played against each other in a professional tennis match. Nadal, the then defending champion, was leading 6-4, 6-4 against Djokovic when the Serbian was forced to retire from the match due to a back injury.
French Open 2007 – Nadal wins 7-5, 6-4, 6-2
In 2007, Nadal, who was vying for a third consecutive French Open title, came up against Djokovic in the semifinals. Unlike their last meeting in Paris, Djokovic pushed the Spaniard hard despite going down in straight sets.
French Open 2008 – Nadal wins 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (3)
Nadal was at his sublime best at the 2008 French Open. He didn’t drop a set throughout the two weeks at Roland Garros. Facing Djokovic for the third time in three years in Paris, Nadal came as close as it could get to finally dropping a set. The Spaniard won the semifinal 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (3).
“You got the feeling that even if Djokovic won that third, even if he had enough in the tank to go another set – obviously he’s a completely different player now – that he couldn’t win two more sets. I remember watching those matches; you were thinking it’d be an upset if someone wins a set, forget about someone winning three sets”, Brad Gilbert, who guided Andre Agassi to six Grand Slam titles including the 1999 French Open, told atptour.com on the fourth-anniversary of Nadal’s 2008 triumph.
French Open 2012 – Nadal wins 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5
Summit clash of the French Open 2012 was the fourth consecutive Major final between Djokovic and Nadal, the first such instance in men’s tennis in the Open era. Djokovic had won the previous three, including a marathon five hours 53 minutes Australian Open final which is the longest ever Grand Slam final.
Nadal took a 6-4, 5-3 lead against Djokovic in the final on the Philippe Chatrier court when rain stopped play. When the match resumed, he broke Djokovic to take the second set and carried the momentum to win the first two games in the third. No one could quite believe what happened next as the Serbian reeled off six games in a row to win the third set. It looked like Djokovic was ready to take this to five sets as he moved into a 2-1 lead in the fourth but a second rain interruption and fading light meant that the match was to be resumed the next day.
Nadal later admitted that the rain delaying the final overnight had made him nervous and anxious.
However, it probably did more damage to the Serbian as Nadal broke Djokovic to make it 2-2 when the play continued the next day. The two then held their serve until Nadal, leading 6-5, sensed the opportunity to go for the kill. At 30-all on Djokovic’s serve, Nadal attacked and finished the rally with a forehand to earn a match point. The Spaniard need not do anything post that forehand as Djokovic double faulted to gift him the win.
French Open 2013 – Nadal wins 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7
The Nadal vs Djokovic 2013 French Open semifinal was billed as the ‘final before the final’ and it lived up to the hype as the King of Clay was stretched to five sets for only the second time in 59 French Open matches.
Both players split the first two sets before Nadal blazed through the third. Serving for the match at 6-5 in the fourth, a win looked all but done for the Mallorcan, Djokovic wasn’t.
He broke Nadal back and won the tie-breaker to force the deciding fifth set.
In the final set, it was the Serbian who had the upper hand when he led by a break at 4-3. However, serving at deuce in the eighth game, he committed an unusual error. “Up by 4-3 in the fifth set, and serving at deuce, Djokovic moved in to knock away a high volley and ended up running into the net after striking the ball for what would have been a winner. Though he protested, the chair umpire, Pascal Maria, applied the rules, giving Nadal the point because the ball had not yet bounced a second time when Djokovic touched the net,” wrote Christopher Clarey in The New York Times.
The two members of the ‘Big Three’ held their serve till 8-8. In the 17th game which proved to be the final one, Djokovic misjudged a forehand pass and overhit two forehands to hand over the victory to Nadal after four hours and 37 minutes.
French Open 2014 – Nadal wins 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4
For the second time in three years, Nadal’s final opponent at French Open was Djokovic.
Second-seeded Djokovic had received a comparatively tougher draw but apart from his third-round match against Croatian Marin Cilic, he easily dominated every player he faced.
Djokovic went into the final having beaten Nadal in their last four meetings – ATP500 Beijing final and final of the ATP Finals in 2013, and Miami and Rome Final in 2014. But unlike those four matches, this was a Grand Slam match and Djokovic was 0-5 against Nadal at Roland Garros.
The Serbian took the first set (6-3) in the final on the Philippe Chatrier court by breaking Nadal’s serve in the ninth game. Both players struggled to hold serve in the second set which Nadal managed to win 7-5.
Both players were putting ice-stuffed towels around their necks on changeovers but perhaps, the heat affected Djokovic more than it did Nadal.
Djokovic, who needed to match the spirit from his 2013 semifinal defeat where he stretched the Spaniard to five sets, looked weary and crumbled losing the next two sets 2-6, 4-6.
French Open 2015 – Djokovic wins 7-5, 6-3, 6-1
Djokovic became only the second man to beat Nadal at French Open when he won the 2015 quarterfinal in straight sets. The Serbian, who had a 0-6 win-loss record against Nadal at the clay Major, entered the match as the world number one and on a 26-match unbeaten streak. He won a gruelling first set in 67 minutes before running through the second and third to grab a historic win against the King of Clay
French Open 2020 – Nadal wins 6-0, 6-2, 7-5
The 2020 French Open final was the eighth meeting between Nadal and Djokovic at Roland Garros and the third for the title. While the summit clashes of 2012 and 2014 saw Djokovic at least taking a set off Nadal, the 2020 one went out of his sight in a flash. Despite high-quality tennis, Djokovic conceded his first bagel in a Major final in 45 minutes before Nadal wrapped up the second 6-2.
The third set was a close affair till Nadal broke the Serbian in the 11th game. From 30-15 up, a mistimed backhand, a long forehand and a double fault cost Djokovic the game. Nadal served it out to love with an ace to seal the set, the match, his 100th win at Roland Garros and a 13th French Open title. For the fourth time in his career, the Spaniard had lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy without dropping a set all tournament.
French Open 2021 – Djokovic wins 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2
In their last French Open meeting which was the 2021 semifinal, world number Djokovic and 13-time champion Nadal played against each other in the newly introduced night session on the Philippe-Chatrier Court. Nadal grabbed the opening set 6-3 before Djokovic equalised by taking the second set by the same scoreline.
The third set saw breathtaking tennis from both players. Djokovic served for the set at 5-3 only to be broken back. However, when Nadal had set point at 6-5, it was the Serbian’s turn to fight back and he did. Djokovic eventually won the 93-minute third set 7-6 (4) in the tiebreak. By then, Nadal’s was visibly suffering from sever pain in his left foot and after losing the third set, he could not fight much.
Djokovic won the fourth set comfortably to become the first man with multiple French Open wins over Nadal.