Djokovic-Nadal, a classic shock that resists the ravages of time. The most contested duel of the Open era (29 victories for the Serbian, 28 for the Spaniard) crushes the end of Roland-Garros. The Serbian (world No. 1) and the Spaniard (No. 3) were scheduled to meet at the foot of the final. They show up on time for the meeting. With determination and rage, like the liberating cry released by Novak Djokovic after his qualification against the Italian Matteo Berrettini in a stadium rendered silent after a first night session that welcomed spectators before forcing them to leave to respect the curfew.
Djokovic (34 years old) -Nadal (35 years old), impatience and fascination accompany them. The rivalry between the Spaniard and the Serbian was born in 2006, at Roland Garros (in the quarterfinals). She has traveled to all Grand Slam tournaments, including the Olympics, the Davis Cup or the Masters 1000.
Roland-Garros did not forget the 2013 semi-final. Scorching heat accompanied a fierce and stifling gladiatorial fight. Nadal won in extremis 9-7 in the 5th set. A match that is among the most memorable duels between the two men, with the final of the 2012 Australian Open (after 5:53 of the match, Djokovic had won 7-5 in the 5th set), the half Wimbledon final in 2018 (Djokovic had qualified 10-8 in the 5th set) or the Madrid semi-final in 2009 (Nadal victory 11-9 in the tie-break of the 3rd set).
If the opposition between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal serves as a showcase for the discipline, is registered as the most media, the Nadal-Djokovic duel stands out as the most contested sporting arm wrestling, offers a unique context that repetition did not soften or trivialize. At Roland Garros, Novak Djokovic only defeated the “king of the earth” once (in the quarterfinals in 2015) and conceded seven defeats. The last dating from the final in 2020, at the end of a one-sided match, when everything seemed to be together to unroll the ocher carpet for him because of the closed roof. At Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal posted thirteen titles (105 wins-2 losses), Novak Djokovic only one (for four unfortunate finals).
On clay, the Spaniard lets hover the permanent and wearing threat of his piercing lift, his devastating lasso forehand and his flipper backhand. He won 19 of the 26 matches between them on this land of patience, endurance and suffering. Novak Djokovic, the elastic man ready to weave his web with a lot of slips, presents: “The biggest challenge that exists is playing on clay against Nadal, here, where he has had so much success. Every time we come face to face, there is that little extra tension, these expectations. The vibrations are different when you go out on the court with him. This is the reason why this rivalry between us has been, I think, historic for our sport..»
And to add: “The rivalry against him and Roger (Federer) made me a better player and allowed me to understand how to improve myself to play tennis to the level they were when I started playing against them. Rafa is probably the biggest rival of my career. Match preparations against him, regardless of surface and location, are always different from how I feel about other players..»
For Rafael Nadal too, the duel, even on clay, invariably invites itself as a perilous journey. He rocks: “You have to be at your best, play the best tennis. It’s a big challenge. In a way, we train, we do this sport to live these moments. The negative side is that it’s difficult because it means playing against one of the best players in tennis history..» Roland-Garros holds its breath at the time of seeing the magnificent magnets gathered …