Nadal wins the first set 6-3!
A second chance for Nadal to clinch the set on his serve. This time things are much easier, the highlight being what I can only describe as a half-volley at the net that turns into a lob: too good for Novak, too good for anyone (which is obvious because if Djokovic couldn’t return that, who could?). Rafa nearly seals the set with another lob but it goes just long – Rafa perhaps guilty of a little bit of showboating there. And it costs him because Djokovic takes the next point and we’re at deuce. Or costs him for a while because Nadal wins the set not long afterwards.
Novak showed just enough towards the end of the set to show he can hurt Rafa. The bad news? Rafa has never lost at the French Open after winning the first set.
First set: *Djokovic 3-5 Nadal (* denotes server): Novak takes the momentum from that break and … loses his first two service points. A nice recovery to take it to 30-30 though, the second point coming from his first ace of the match. Rafa then brings up break point but a tough forehand from Novak saves it – and the Spaniard taps his racket to acknowledge a fine shot. Novak holds – it would have been pretty dispiriting to have broken then immediately have been broken back.
I wonder what other grand slams do when they’re not hosting and no one cares about them? Looks like they just tweet about the other ones.
First set: Djokovic 2-5 Nadal* (* denotes server): And Rafa serves for the set. Some good news for Novak as he takes the first two points, the second courtesy of the net cord. You can tell things are looking up for Djokovic when a drop shot actually works – Nadal can’t get anywhere near it. Rafa wrongfoots his opponent to save the first break point before a long forehand takes us to deuce. Rafa then drops a double fault for the break. Nadal will still probably win this set but some consolation for Novak as he shows there are ways of hurting the champ.
First set: *Djokovic 1-5 Nadal (* denotes server): Some relief for Novak! And some relief for those of us who want to see something resembling a contest. No bagel for Novak as a forehand into the net gives him his first game of the match.
First set: Djokovic 0-5 Nadal* (* denotes server): This is very simple for Rafa at the moment: he doesn’t need do too much except play competently and wait for Novak’s mistakes. Another comfortable hold for the reigning champion.
First set: *Djokovic 0-4 Nadal (* denotes server): Novak’s first two first serves are long and he follows them up with forehands that have a little too much on them to give Rafa a 0-30 advantage – his ninth point in a row. A very poor forehand dumped into the net gives Nadal the game. Rafa is tough enough on clay when you’re playing well, but when you’re giving him points…
First set: Djokovic 0-3 Nadal* (* denotes server): While Djokovic has struggled for the most part with his drop shot, Nadal is definitely not. He wafts one just over the net, it hits the cord on the way over, to reach 40-0. An easy hold, much more comfortable than his opening service game.
First set: *Djokovic 0-2 Nadal (* denotes server): Another deuce game! It looks like it’s drifting towards an easy Novak hold until a scorching 100mph winner from Nadal sends us to 40-30 and injects a bit of pep into proceedings. Novak then tries a drop shot that isn’t good enough for Rafa who anticipates and dinks a forehand past the Serb to bring up break point. He seals the break at the first opportunity.
So, two deuce games to start the match. Looks like we’re going past curfew!
First set: Djokovic 0-1 Nadal* (* denotes server): And Rafa will serve first. And does: not the greatest of starts as he dumps his first serve into the net and then sends a forehand long to to gift the first point to his opponent. Then a lovely little rally with Novak fending all sorts of Rafa forehands at the net before his opponent wears him down to go to 30-15. But Novak battles back to bring up the first break point of the match – in the first game. Rafa saves with a serve but a whipped forehand from Novak brings up another opportunity to break and another ace from Rafa to save it! A brilliant display of nerveless tennis from Rafa there to hit those two aces when he needed them most. A great drop shot from Djokovic looks like it’s set up a chance at a break point but he slams an easy overhead long and the next point seals the game for Nadal.
Because of Covid restrictions, the crowd need to leave in just over three hours if the match is still going on. It happened in Djokovic’s last match, where the crowd booed as they were turfed out. I’m sure they’ll be pleased if they are asked to leave at two-sets all. Maaaaybe they should have put this match on first – with all due respect to Zverev and Tsitsipas.
Djokovic has beaten Nadal here before and not that long ago – in 2015 in the quarter-finals (on the Spaniard’s birthday too). Djokovic didn’t even need to break too much of a sweat that day, beating Rafa in straight sets. Of course, Djokovic went on to lose to Stan Wawrinka in the final but he’ll be trying to visualise that quarter-final win as he steps out on to court today.
The winner of this evening’s match will play Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final. He’s just beaten in five sets, which I am legally obliged to call an “epic”. Here’s what the 22-year-old had to say after reaching his first grand slam final.
“All I can think of is my roots, where I came from,” he says, after becoming the first Greek player to reach a grand slam final. “My dream was to play here, to play on the big stage of the French Open some day. I would have never thought that I would.”
And so here we are – the inevitable final, except it’s the semi-final. The five-setter in the other semi-final means we’re starting a tad later that expected – bad news for Novak and Rafa if they wanted to tuck into a spot of Turkey v Italy in the Euros, but there you go.
Novak leads this pair’s head-to-head meetings but only just – 29-28. It’s a different story on clay though, where Rafa, as you may expect holds a 19-7 advantage.
Nadal is the favourite here but as this article on the ATP site details, his opponent has been better in pressure situations at this year’s tournament. Novak has saved 86% of break points he’s faced, while Rafa’s rate is surprisingly low at 50%. It’s a similar story in break points converted, where Novak has the edge 63% to 49.3%. And then it’s been a pretty good week for Serbian sports superstars with Nikola Jokic winning the NBA’s most valuable player award. And if that sounds like I’m clutching at straws in search of signs of an upset, it’s because I am.
- Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal: French Open 2021…
- French Open 2021 Semi-Finals, Rafael Nadal vs Novak…
- French Open 2021: Coco Gauff, Novak Djokovic and…
- Novak Djokovic reaches French Open final with epic…
- Novak Djokovic reaches French Open final with epic…
- French Open 2021 Men's Singles Final Live Updates:…
- French Open men's final 2021 live score: Novak…
- Novak Djokovic defeats 13-time champion Rafael Nadal…