“It’s always incredible for me to return to the semi-finals for another time. Diego is such an amazing player with so much talent, today was a very difficult challenge. I started bad the second set and then was able to come back. But then the game at 4-4, returning with the wind helping, I played a bad game and had a tricky situation serving to not lose the set. Well done to him, he played well.
I needed to play a little bit more aggressive and I think I did later, so I am very happy for that,” Rafael Nadal said early Wednesday while awaiting the outcome of the late evening match between Djokovic and his Italian ninth seed rival, Matteo Berrettini.
That match has come and gone and as widely expected, Djokovic has since edged out Berrettini, albeit in a grueling 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 manner, to book his 11th semi final appearance and set up a mouth watering encounter with the incredible clay Court specialist, Nadal.
A meeting between Djokovic and Nadal has always been a class cocktail for tennis enthusiasts across the globe who will give up just about anything to see it. The reason is not far to seek. At least both of them are regarded as two of the greatest tennis players of all time. The rivalry between the duo has made Friday’s encounter something to look forward to given the fact that their meetings gave the world the rare opportunity of seeing classics performances.
The duo has had 57 meetings since their first encounter at the 2006 French Open Quarters in which Nadal, a fledgling clay court maestro, won after Djokovic withdrew due to an injury in the third set. But the Serbian commented later that he despite his withdrawal, he was certain he found the antedote to his conqueror’s hold on clay.
With their victories in the Quarters of the ongoing French Open, Djokovic and Nadal will be having their 58th encounter. Thus far however, the former has had a slight edge, nudging the left handed Spaniad 29-28. Friday’s encounter is expected to either widen the gap by 1 or even the score.
Meanwhile 16 of their 57 meetings have been in grand slams where Nadal holds sway with a 10-6 advantage. In particular, whereas he is 7-1 better at the French and US Open, Djokovic is 2-0 and 2-1 better at Australian and Wimbledon.
Hard court hosted 27 of the meetings between Djokovic and Nadal with the world number one coming out with a 20-7 lead with Nadal claiming 19-7 on clay. Both are tied 2-2 on grass.
Their first ever meeting, incidentally is their second encounter overall, in any finals, took place at the 2007 Indian Wells Masters tournament. Like the Roland Garros pair up, Nadal had his way. Djokovic’s first win came in their third overall meet at the quarter finals of the 2007 Miami Masters. However, the duo’s rivalry took the backstage between 2006 and 2009, as Nadal’s competition faceoff with another legend, Roger Federer, became intense.
That was the case until the Djokovic/Nadal rivalry teed off again at the 2010 US Open, the first Grand Slam final between them. While Nadal held sway over the first part of the rivalry, covering 2006 to 2017 with a soar away 16-7 lead, Djokovic took over the second 2011 to 2016 phase, with a 19-7 lead. Neither of them has had any glaring dominance since 2017 even as Nadal maintains a 5-3 edge.
Remarkably, Djokovic and Nadal had 11 consecutive meetings between March 2011 and April 2013. The back to back appearance made them the only pair to have done so in the Open era. It is also recorded as the only one in Men’s tennis circuit featuring two players in all the four grand slam finals and a record 27 Masters Series.
Indeed, a number of matches between the both of them have been recorded as classics of all time. Primary among them are the 2009 Madrid Masters’ semifinal, the 2013 French Open semifinal, and the 2018 Wimbledon semifinal. Not least is their 2012 Australian Open final contest, hailed by pundits, analysts and former players, as the greatest match ever seen.
With Friday’s pairing canceling out the possibility of a Federer taking the place of Djokovic due to the latter’s withdrawal, Nadal really has his hands full. Whichever way it ends, the encounter promises to be mouth watering.