In fifteen years and fifty-seven duels, it was believed to have seen everything between the two players with the richest rivalry in the history of their sport among men. But at the age of 34 and 35, respectively, the two sacred monsters have proven that they have had it under their feet. Friday, June 11, in the semi-finals of Roland-Garros, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal excited all (TV) spectators with a match that will certainly be remembered.
Taking his revenge on the final of the 2020 tournament, the Serbian signed one of the greatest exploits of his sport, considered to be the “Ultimate challenge on clay”, as he recalled on the eve of the meeting: beat Rafael Nadal on “his” Philippe-Chatrier court, who had seen him crowned thirteen times. “The best match I played at Roland Garros and in the Top 3 of my career”, will say the Serbian after more than four hours of a capital fight (3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2).
The world number one had already managed to overthrow the king in his fortress, in the quarterfinals of the 2015 edition. But six years ago, the Spaniard presented himself at Porte d’Auteuil weighted with his worst season on the surface and this setback against the world number one seemed inevitable. In 2009, when the Swede Robin Söderling was the first to commit the crime of lèse-majesté, the Mallorcan’s knees were creaking. This time, the defending champion had neither physical injury nor mental crack, the defeat suffered no ambiguity.
An insane level of play
Since the draw, the poster attracted all eyes: the world number one and number three were scheduled to meet at the foot of the final. The 58e episode of the saga brought together all the ingredients that had been lacking eight months earlier in this same setting: an insane level of play for three sets, a crowd whose enthusiasm got the better of the curfew and, in the end, a way out which thwarted all predictions.
On October 11, 2020, the scenario of the final did not carry any suspense (6-0, 6-2, 7-5). The Serb had been taken by the throat from the first exchanges by the Spaniard, even though the conditions were said to be favorable for him – the roof closed, the earth weighed down by the first frost of autumn.
Friday, we thought at first that the scenario was going to repeat itself. The first game lasted ten minutes, but already, Nadal was showing an iron defense and was squirting his lift in the falling heat. Djokovic, too greedy in amortization eight months ago, curiously unrolled the same strategy: of the five attempted in the first set, not one escaped the Mallorcan.
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