Djokovic takes down Nadal in dramatic French Open semi-final

Novak Djokovic came back from a set down to defeat Rafael Nadal in a thrilling French Open semi-final on Friday night. Djokovic will battle Stefanos Tsitsipas for the title.

Rafael Nadal, Roland-Garros 2021

ROLAND-GARROS 2021, SEMI-FINAL

NOVAK DJOKOVIC (No 1) d. RAFAEL NADAL (No 3) 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2

  • Main information: Rafael Nadal is beaten in the semi-finals at Roland-Garros by Novak Djokovic in four sets.
  • You will also learn: This is the first time in his career that the Spaniard has lost at this stage of the tournament.
  • Why You Must Read This Article: The third set — if not the whole match — was nothing short of legendary.

Not since 2015 had Rafael Nadal lost on his Roland-Garros stomping grounds. That setback came against Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals. Fast forward six years and it was once again Djokovic who took down the King of Clay, this time in the semis. The world No 1 also became the first man to beat Nadal at the French Open after dropping the first set, as he triumphed 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2. Despite not going the five-set distance, the thrilling contest lasted four hours and 11 minutes.

When the two all-time greats split the first two sets, the door to a crucial third set was open — and it proved to be a set that will go down in French Open lore.

Nadal twice recovered from a break down, including when Djokovic served for a two sets to one lead at 5-4. The 13-time Roland-Garros champion then survived a tough service hold for a 6-5 advantage. Nadal’s one golden chance over the course of the whole match came with Djokovic serving down set point at 5-6, at-out, and second serve. The Serb saved it, though, and ended up forcing a tiebreaker. In the ‘breaker, Nadal was undone by a double-fault on the first point and a missed forehand volley at 3-4. That coincided with some incredible tennis by Djokovic, who took it seven points to four.

Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2021

With the 11:00 pm French curfew looming large, 5,000 fans in attendance were dreading a premature exit. To the surprise of everyone, however, they were allowed to stay!

When Nadal broke immediately in the fourth and consolidated it for 2-0, it looked like the crowed may be witnessing a five-setter in the making. Instead, there really wasn’t much more tennis to be played. Djokovic recovered swiftly and decisively from the brief hiccup, reeling off six games in a row to clinch victory in style.

It marked Nadal’s first-ever loss at Roland-Garros at this stage of the tournament. In addition to his 2015 quarter-final shortcoming, the Spaniard fell to Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round. He is now 105-3 lifetime at the French Open.

“It’s true that [there were] crazy points out there.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal, Roland-Garros 2021

“That’s sport,” Nadal said afterward. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I tried to give my best. Probably was not my best day out there. Even if I [fought], that I put a lot of effort, the position on the shots [wasn’t] that effective tonight. Against a player like him that takes the ball early, you are not able to take him out of his positions, then (it) is very difficult, no?

“Even like this, I had the big chance with set point, 6-5, second serve. That’s it. Anything could happen in that moment. Then I make a double-fault, easy volley in the tiebreak. But it’s true that [there were] crazy points out there.”

“One of those nights and matches that you will remember forever”

Djokovic, advances to meet Stefanos Tsitsipas is Sunday’s championship match. Tsitsipas edged Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 in the first semi-final.

But the 18-time major winner will be sure to savor this one before looking ahead to the next.

“Definitely the best match that I was part of ever in Roland-Garros for me, and top three matches that I ever played in my entire career — considering quality of tennis, playing my biggest rival on the court where he has had so much success and has been the dominant force in the last 15-plus years,” Djokovic said.

“And the atmosphere which was completely electric — for both players, a lot of support. Just amazing. I was very happy that there was no curfew, 11:00. I heard there was a special waiver, so they allowed the crowd to stay.

“Just one of these nights and matches that you will remember forever.”

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