MX23RW : Friday, July 23 22:35:59| >> :600:3627486:3627486:

Rafael Nadal admits "today was not my day" in Djokovic semi-final

Rafael Nadal admits
© Reuters
Rafael Nadal suffered just his third loss at the French Open, with Novak Djokovic setting up a final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Novak Djokovic produced one of the performances of his life to dethrone Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros on a night of extraordinary sporting drama.

The great Spaniard went into the contest having won 105 of his previous 107 matches on the Parisian clay, losing only to Robin Soderling in the French Open fourth round in 2009 and Djokovic in the last eight six years ago.

He had won all 13 of his previous semi-finals but, in a 58th match between the pair that for three sets maybe surpassed any that came before, Djokovic found the answers to the greatest challenge in sport to win 3-6 6-3 7-6 (4) 6-2.

The world number one said: "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 the 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, and the atmosphere, which was completely electric.

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

Djokovic must now rest and recover before he takes on Stefanos Tsitsipas – winner of a five-set contest with Alexander Zverev earlier on Friday – in the final on Sunday, bidding for a 19th grand slam title and to become the first man in the Open era to win each title at least twice.

Nadal had been trying to claim the outright men's record with 21 slam titles and went in as a clear, albeit narrow, favourite, particularly given his drubbing of Djokovic in the final last October.

The first five games were a near carbon copy of that match, with Nadal finding the answer to everything Djokovic could throw at him and moving into a 5-0 lead, but from there it swerved off in a completely different direction entirely.

Djokovic pulled three games back to sow seeds of doubt in Nadal's mind and was the better player thereafter but, such is the power of the clay-court master, it could still have gone either way.

The second and third sets were packed full of points that seemed impossible, the two men playing out a gladiatorial contest that was part boxing match, part chess as they sought to keep the other out of his comfort zone.

Djokovic just about hung on to his advantage through the second set and then led 5-3 in the third only to show a moment of hesitation that was all Nadal needed to claw his way back.

He had a set point at 6-5, saved by a precision Djokovic drop shot – a tactic that was more foe than friend all evening but came to his rescue when he needed it most.

The tie-break was nip and tuck until Nadal, normally the most solid of volleyers, put one long at 4-3 that would have left a club player with head in hands.

Djokovic was not so charitable and, for just the fifth time at Roland Garros, Nadal lost a second set in a match.

The biggest cheer of the night came with the announcement that the fans, who had been expected to be ejected to comply with Paris' 11pm curfew, were in fact being allowed to stay.

Nadal made a statement with a break to start the fourth set but it was Djokovic who was in control of more of the points and, for once, the weary champion had no answer.

Rafael Nadal suffered just his third loss at Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal suffered just his third loss at Roland Garros (Michel Euler/AP)

Djokovic insisted he had not been too bothered by losing the first five games, saying: "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.

"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.

"But I was ready. 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 have in last year's final."

Nadal was given a long ovation as he left the court, and Djokovic said: "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 kind of climb Mount Everest to win against this guy here."

Nadal was left to rue a lack of precision at important moments, saying: "Probably it was not my best day out there. Even if I fought, I put a lot of effort, the position on the shots hasn't been 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. Well done for him. I tried my best and today was not my day."

Speaking later in Spanish, Nadal, always the most magnanimous of losers, added: "I'm sad, I lost at the most important tournament of the year for me. But it's just a defeat on a tennis court, and tomorrow I'll be at home with my family. That's OK."

ID:451068: cacheID:451068:1false2false3false:QQ:: from db desktop :LenBod:restore:10776:
Restore Data
Share this article now:
Did you know...?
Barbora Krejcikova pictured at the French Open on June 10, 2021
Read Next:
Barbora Krejcikova vows to "enjoy and fight" in French Open finals

rhs 2.0
Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
Albania national flagAlbania0000
AlgeriaAlgeria 0000
American Samoa flagAmerican Samoa0000
Andorra flagAndorra0000
Great BritainGreat Britain0000
Today's Olympic highlights header

Saturday's key events

· Two-time Olympic gold medallist and comeback queen Helen Glover teams up with Polly Swan in the heats of the women's pair (12.30am-4.30am)

· Two-time Rio gold medallist Max Whitlock leads Team GB's charge in the men's qualification, while Rhys McClenaghan flies the flag for Ireland (2am-2pm)

· The first gold medal of the Games will be awarded in the Air Rifle women's final (from 2.45am)

· The men's road race should be a wide-open thriller, with Team GB among those going for gold (3am-10am)

· Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka are among the names in action on the opening day of tennis (from 3am)

· Adam Peaty and many others get their Olympics campaigns underway on the opening day of swimming (11am-12.50pm)

· Team GB's women try to make it two wins from two against hosts Japan (11.30am)
· Netherlands and Brazil, who scored 15 goals between them on matchday one, face off (12pm)
· World champions USA look to bounce back from a shock opening defeat against New Zealand (12.30pm)

> Today's schedule in full
Todays Game Header Right

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Transfer Talk Daily
Match previews - twice weekly
Morning Briefing (7am UTC)
Ultra close-up image of Kevin De Bruyne [NOT FOR USE IN ARTICLES]Get the latest transfer news, match previews and news direct to your inbox!