Djokovic Stops Nadal In French Open Thriller, Will Face Tsitsipas For Title

by Staff | June 11th, 2021, 9:22 pm

Rafael Nadal will not win a 14th French Open title this year. The odds-on favorite and King of Clay suffered his first loss at his favorite event in six years when the same man who beat him then beat him again, Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic stunned the tennis world with an incredible comeback to beat the 13-time champion 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 in 4 hours, 22 minutes. Djokovic becomes the first player to beat Nadal twice at the French Open and the first to do it after the quarterfinals.

“Definitely the best match that I was ever part of in Roland Garros,” Djokovic said. “And top three matches that I’ve 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 past 15-plus years, and the atmosphere, which was completely electric. For both players, a lot of support. Just amazing.

“It’s hard to find words bigger than all the superlatives you can think of for Rafa’s achievements in Roland Garros. He has been the most dominant player of Roland Garros history. He lost two, now three times, in his entire career,” Djokovic added. “He’s been playing here almost 20 years. That achievement speaks for itself. The amount of wins that he has made on this court is incredible. Each time you step on the court with him, you know that you have to climb Mount Everest to win against this guy here.”

Early on, though, it looked like a re-run of Nadal’s October blowout. After a few tight early games, Rafa ran the score up to 5-0 as Djokovic was well off his game. Djokovic would get a break back and while the set was lost, he showed signs of life.

The World No. 1 continued to improve breaking Nadal for a 2-0 lead. Nadal would get it right back but Djokovic would break again for 4-2 and this time fight off three break points to hold. Serving it out 5-3, Nadal would squander two more chances to level.

With the match even and both guys now in form, the stars aligned for one of the great sets in tennis history. The two warriors went toe-to-toe in a near-90 minute slugfest.

There were three straight breaks of serve, then another and when Djokovic tried to serve it out at 5-4, 30-0, Nadal rose to the challenge and the crowd rose to its feet again.

Two majestic games followed as Nadal saved two break points to hold for 6-5. Djokovic would then save a set point in the next game to force the breaker. From 2-3 down, Djokovic would win five of the next six points to take a 2-1 lead.

With clock 20 minutes away from the 11pm curfew, the crowd buzzed as an announcement sounded through the stadium. But it wasn’t requesting them to leave. Instead, the tournament with the government’s approval, announced they had clearance that they could stay. Fans erupted.

Djokovic, who had left the court, returned but quickly went down a break 2-0. Incredibly, Nadal wouldn’t win another game. Following a medical visit to fix some tape on his foot, Nadal got rolled and in a blink Djokovic got the break back, got his serve going and won six straight games to earn a spot in his 6th French Open final and 29th at a Slam.

“I was feeling good mentally, physically. I was motivated. I had a really clear plan in tactics, what I needed to do in order to perform better than I [did] in last year’s final,” Djokovic said. “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,” he added. “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.”

Djokovic finished breaking Nadal 8/22, winning 50% of second serves and hitting 50 winners to 37 unforced.

Nadal had won his last 35 matches at the French Open and was a perfect 26-0 once he got to the French semifinals, but he tossed in eight double faults, won just 40% of second serves and was -7 in winners to unforced errors.

“No doubt he deserved to win,” said Nadal.

“I had the big chance with set point, 6-5, second serve,” Nadal added. “Anything could happen in that moment. Then I make a double-fault, easy volley in the tiebreak.”

“It’s true that, have been crazy points out there. The fatigue is there, too.

“These kind of mistakes can happen. But if you want to win, you can’t make these mistakes. So that’s it. Well done for him. Have been a good fight out there. I try my best, and today was not my day.”

After his 30th career win over Nadal, Djokovic now has his sights set on a second Career Slam and a 19th overall Slam. And do it, he’ll have to get past a man he needed five sets to beat last year, Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The Greek advanced to his first career Slam final holding off Alexander Zverev in five sets 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 in 3 hours, 37 minutes. Tsitsipas jumped out early breaking a Zverev in a poor opening service game from the German.

In the second, Zverev broke and got up 3-0 but inexplicably would drop six straight games to go down 2-0.

With hopes of reenacting his 2020 US Open semifinal comeback against Pablo Carreno Busta, Zverev settled down and began thumping his shots. He would take the third and the fourth behind early breaks. In the fifth, with momentum at his side, he had an early break chance with Tsitsipas serving 0-40. But the Greek swatted those away and eventual broke and ran away with the match.

The Greek, who leads all player in match wins in 2020 with 39, hit 36 winners to 43 unforced, won 52% of his second serves and broke Zverev five times

“It was nerve-wracking and so intense in the first game of the deciding set,” said Tsitsipas. “I came back and I stayed alive. I felt the crowd with me, they were cheering me and giving me their energy. I still felt that there was hope and a chance to fight back. The only thing I could do is fight. It was very emotional and this wins means a lot. It’s the most important one of my career so far.”

Zverev, who still hasn’t defeated a Top 10 player in a Slam, was far from happy with making the last four at the French.

“I’m not at a stage anymore where great matches are something that I’m satisfied with. Today, nothing. I lost. I’m not in the final. Was it a good match? Yes. But at the end of the day, I’m going to fly home tomorrow. There’s nothing positive about that,” said Zverev who finished with 11 aces, seven double faults and won just 40% of his second serves.

“I don’t particularly care about semifinals,” said Zverev. “Might sound bad in a way or might sound arrogant. I’m not trying to be arrogant. I’m just saying it how it is. I wouldn’t have cared about a final either, to be honest. I didn’t win the tournament. Wimbledon is in two weeks’ time and I’m looking forward to that.”

The 22-year-old Tsitsipas is looking forward to his first Slam final.

“It means a lot. It was a difficult match. It was a match full of emotions, full of so many different phases that I went through. So, in the end, it was just such a big relief I was able to close it in such a good way. It was just exhausting,” Tsitsipas said. “It was difficult to handle all of these things and put them together, kind of compromise on some others. I was able to deliver and close the match when I had to. I’m proud of myself.”

Djokovic, though, has won five of seven from the Greek, and isn’t worried about fatigue.

“I know what I need to do. Obviously Tsitsipas, first time in the final of a Grand Slam,” Djokovic said. “For him it’s a great achievement, but I’m sure he doesn’t want to stop there. He’s in great form. I think he leads the rankings, race rankings this year. He’s had his best results overall. I think he matured as a player a lot. Clay arguably is his best surface.

“We played an epic five-setter last year in the semis here. I know it’s going to be another tough one. I’m hoping I can recharge my batteries as much as I can because I’m going to need some power and energy for that one.”

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10 Comments for Djokovic Stops Nadal In French Open Thriller, Will Face Tsitsipas For Title

Van Persie Says:

The FO final from 2020 left a such deep wound, that I doubted Nole in the 2021 AO final, I doubted him to win this match against Rafa..I was terrified when it was 5-0 for Rafa in the first set, then Nole find a way to beat his demons. What Djokovic did yesterday cannot be described in words.

Once again, huge congrats to Nole! It is unbelievable :)

I would not agree, that it was one of the top 3 matches in Nole’s career…there were sooo many amazing matches, but perhaps one of the most sweetest victories.

Van Persie Says:

“then Nole find a way”

Correction: Nole did find a way :)

Czarlazar Says:

What Nole proved yesterday is that he’s been nearly on par with Nadal on clay since the beginning, but near misses prevented him from developing the self-belief to achieve great success at Roland Garros. Ever since he let Nadal off the hook during the rainy final in Paris in 2012 (agreeing to stop play when he was on the cusp of winning, then losing the next sunny morning), it’s been one disappointment after another. The 2013 semi-final against Nadal when he was up 4-2 in the fifth and lost a crucial point after touching the net on a volley; the shock loss to Wawrinka in the 2015 final (mimicking the 2011 SF loss to Federer in an otherwise unbeatable year for Nole). Fact is Djokovic is an outstanding clay court player, probably top three of all time, but has only one French title to show for it. That will double on Sunday, and now that he’s prevailed against an in-form Nadal on Philippe Chartrier, should be the favourite next year as well.

skeezer Says:

LOL I don’t think last year he was “nearly” on par with Nadal, getting a bagel on way to a quick 3 set beatdown. and no way he is the top all 3 Clay court players of all time. Borg and Vilas amoung others would have something to say about that. No one has won the RG @ 35. Rafa is 35.
Fact is Nadal, with over 100 matches @ RG, has only lost 3. He was clearly gassed, but the champ that he is, fought hard. The guy will forever be the King of Clay,

skeezer Says:

Someone was going to eventually beat Nadal on Clay( imo the Soderling loss was the best match by far, in his prime ). He cannot win forever. But it was a poetic to see the Champ got beat by a Champ. Nadal got his loss from the current # 1 in the world, not by some 200+ ranked player.
Also think that Djokovic single handily slowed down Rafa’s title chase in 2011-12. Rafa was stopped in 7 finals in a row by Djoker. Think of that, on the brink of winning 7 titles, and one man stopped you every time.

Dave Says:


Just like Nadal wasn’t nearly on par against Djokovic in 2015, losing in straights. From the 2013 epic to 2021, 5 matches it’s 10 sets to 9 Nadal. That’s pretty on par if you ask me. Not sure why you have such a hard time giving credit to Novak. No top analyst that i heard speak yesterday thought the Soderling win in the 4th round was more impressive than this win by Djokovic, where Nadal was 13-0 in Semi finals and Djokovic was the one who played back to back 3 and a half hour matches while Nadal played only 2 hours 45 against Diego as his longest match. So you can try all you like to downplay what Djokovic did yesterday if it makes you feel better.

Dave Says:

You are entitled to your opinion and I respect that. And these comments aren’t to offend you, and I remember in years past you said when the numbers match for Novak you will admit he’s better than Federer and Nadal. So that’s why I’m bringing up these French Open Numbers now. And to add to what happened yesterday, I think it’s even more impressive considering he got absolutely blown off the court by Nadal 8 months ago and went down 5-0 to start this match. And don’t forget that Nadal isn’t even technically a full year older than Djokovic.

Graham Says:

I’m old school I’m afraid. Both Novak and Rafa will probably surpass Federer’s GS haul but, putting everything into perspective, Fed is still imo the goat.
Great display from Djokovic though.

Czarlazar Says:

The French semi was the 27th meeting between them on clay and Nole has won 8, including at the French (twice), finals of Rome (thrice), Monte Carlo (twice) and Madrid. Djokovic is the only player who has consistently challenged the king of clay and thus proved to be one of the best clay court players in history. Hard to dispute that unless you refuse to admit reality.

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