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French Open 2021: Novak Djokovic dethrones 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal in semis

Novak Djokovic of Serbia is the reigning world number one, having won 18 Grand Slams to date, including a French Open. Spain's Rafael Nadal was the 13-time defending champion, having won record 20 Slams to date. It was his just third loss at Roland Garros.

French Open 2021: Novak Djokovic dethrones 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal in semis-ayh
Author
Paris, First Published Jun 12, 2021, 10:33 AM IST
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In what turned out to be an epic semi-final encounter, reigning world number one, Novak Djokovic of Serbia, knocked out 13-time defending champion Rafael Nadal of Spain in the 2021 French Open at the Roland Garros Stadium in Paris on Friday. Djokovic won the match in four sets 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2.

The match
It was a tough match since the opening game, as Djokovic lost the opening five games, while it looked that the 2020 horror final could repat. Nevertheless, he hardly lost his focus. The honours were shared in the first two sets, with Nadal having the upper hand despite losing the second set.

However, the third set proved to be vital, with both going neck-on-neck, displaying tremendous gameplay abilities and athleticism, along with mental strength, which involved four breaks and 14 breakpoints. Although Djokovic lost his chance to serve it out in the final set, he saved a set point while he rallied in the tie-breaker, thanks to a couple of crucial drop shots.

Nadal was determined to get back to level terms, as he broke the serve initially. However, Djokovic maintained his calm and composure to outplay the Spaniard in the closing six games and knock him out while booking his place in the final.

Stats

  • It was Nadal's only third loss at French Open.
  • All of Nadal's loss at RG have come outside the final.
  • Djokovic is the only man to defeat Nadal at Roland Garros twice, with the other being Robin Soderling in 2009.
  • The Serbian extended his head-to-head over the Spaniard to 30-28.

Reactions
Djokovic: It was for sure the most beautiful match I've played here in Paris. You tell yourself there is no pressure. But, there is a lot of pressure, trust me. I was feeling good mentally, physically. I was motivated. I had a really clear plan in tactics and what I needed to do to perform better than I [did] in last year's final. The beginning of the match was kind of resembling last year's final, but I just managed to get myself back into the first set. Even though I lost it, I felt like 3-6 down; I found my game. Even though I didn't have such a great start, I was not too nervous because I felt like I was hitting the ball very well. It was just a matter of me working my way into the match and adjusting to his ball, which is completely different than any other player's ball. The amount of spin he plays with from the forehand corner, it's tremendous. But, I was ready.

Nadal: That's sport. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. I tried to give my best. Well done for him. [It was] a good fight out there. I tried my best, and today was not my day. [It] doesn't matter. That's tennis. The player who gets used to the conditions better is the player who deserves to win. So no doubt he deserved to win. [It] probably was not my best day out there. Even if I fought, [even if I] put a lot of effort, the position on the shots [were not] that effective tonight. Against a player like him who takes the ball early, you are not able to take him out of his positions; then it is very difficult.

(As told to ATP)

What's next?
Djokovic would take on Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final on Sunday, as the latter beat Germany's Alexander Zverev in a five-setter 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3. It would be Tsitsipas's maiden appearance in a Slam final, while Djokovic already beat him in the RG semis last year, besides holding a 5-2 overall lead.

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