French Open 2021: Fabulous Friday in Paris as Djoker and Rafa lock horns in Roland Garros’ blockbuster semi-final showdown

We look inside what is widely regarded as one of the best rivalry in tennis history as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic meet for the ninth time in the French Open.

French Open 2021: Fabulous Friday in Paris as Djoker and Rafa lock horns in Roland Garros' blockbuster semi-final showdown
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic fight it out at the Italian Open final. (Photo credit: PTI, Instagram/@djokernole)

This year’s French Open presents a mouthwatering fixture in the form of a Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic semi-final clash. One of the greatest spectacles of modern-day tennis is the Djokovic–Nadal rivalry and on Friday, the world is once again going to witness these two titans pitted against each other, in a ‘Gladiator’s Arena’. As Nadal chases his record-extending 14th Roland Garros, arch-rival Djokovic aims for his 19th Grand Slam title.

What makes the semi-final clash even more interesting is the fact that it was Djokovic who was defeated by Nadal in last year’s final. To add to that, Nadal who comes here at the back of some title victories in Barcelona and the Italian Open, defeated the Serb just three weeks ago at the final in Rome. Novak Djokovic who leads the Spaniard in the ATP head-to-head count, will be looking to extract some good-old-revenge by defeating the ‘King of Clay’

The famous rivalry

What is widely regarded as one of the best rivalries in tennis history, the Djokovic–Nadal saga faces competition only from the Nadal-Federer rivalry. Djokovic and Nadal have battled each other more times than any other couple in tennis history. The duo has played 57 matches together with the Serb marginally leading the tie on a 29-28 win-loss record.  However, when it comes to the French Open, Djokovic stands nowhere close to Nadal with the Spaniard leading the tie 7-1.

The humongous number of matches played between the two, the quality of the matches and the amount of records this encounter has produced, all contribute to making it one of the greatest if not the greatest rivalry of all times.

The two first met in 2006 in the quarter-final of the 2006 French Open which was easily won by Nadal. 15 years and 57 games later, the duo has 38 Grand Slams between them. While Nadal dominated on clay, it was the Serb who prevailed when it came to the hard-courts. When it comes to a common ground, a grass court, the two stand levelled.

Surface

Highest Wins

Victory Margin

Clay

Rafael Nadal

19–7

Hard

Novak Djokovic

20-7

Grass

Tied

2-2

When it comes to Grand Slams, the 35-year-old Nadal leads Djokovic by two titles, tied with Roger Federer at 20.

Tournament

Nadal

Djokovic

French Open

13

1

Australian Open

1

8

Wimbledon

2

5

US Open

4

4

Total

20

18

Even though Nadal has an edge when it comes to the number of Grand Slam wins, Djokovic has been keeping his opponent on the toes as he remains the only player to defeat Nadal in three consecutive grand slam finals and the only player to defeat Nadal in all four grand slams. Djokovic also boasts the most number of career wins against Nadal, a record even the Spaniard enjoys bragging, with his 28 victories against the 34-year-old Serb.

Big Blockbuster in Paris

This year’s semi-final in Paris will be their ninth face-off in the open. Nadal has never lost a semi-final or final games against the Serb in the French Open. Coming into the final, the 20-time Grand Slam winner, boasts an exceptional record of 35 consecutive wins. At Roland Garros, Nadal’s win-loss ratio pans out to be 105-2. The two defeats came at the hands of Robin Soderling (2009) and Djokovic (2015)

Rafael Nadal

The Spaniard has been in imperious form right from the start of the tournament, winning his first four matches without dropping a set. Nadal who has come into the Open on the back of some major title wins remains the firm favourite for the title let alone the clash. The only set dropped by Nadal was against Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-final.

Novak Djokovic

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic enjoyed a similarly comfortable start to his week in Paris with three straight-sets wins. Although the Serb survived an almighty scare in the last-16 clash against Lorenzo Musetti, coming back from two sets down, Djokovic has had a sensational tournament so far, winning more than 70% of his service points in every match he has played.

The winner?

Djokovic who was simply pulverized by the Spaniard in their last meeting and on many other occasions had no answer for Nadal’s heavy groundstrokes in the 2020 final. Although the odds speak in favour of Nadal who is high on confidence on the back of his Italian Open victory against the Serb three weeks ago, Djokovic’s determination to get one better of Nadal in Paris cannot be short-sighted. Irrespective of the result which cannot be predicted, the tie guarantees a power-packed encounter that will be enjoyed by both sets of fans.