What’s the all the excitement about at Roland Garros? Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will meet in a French Open quarter-final Wednesday, over which the tennis world has been obsessed since the draw was made a month ago. Nadal, who is the nine-time champion up will face Djokovic, the world number one. He only has a single defeat in 10 years on Parisian clay. He’s going for a record 10th title. Djokovicon the other hand is trying very hard to complete a career Grand Slam. The French Open is the only tournament missing from his repertoire.
Overall, they’ve met a record 43 times, six times at Roland Garros and twice in the final, and each time Nadal held the upper. But this year, they will face-up four days before the final, coincidentally on Nadal’s 29th birthday, where instead, Djokovic is the favourite to win, especially since Federer was knocked out earlier today.
The match-up: Djokovic is in the best form of his career. The Serbian player has won his last 26 matches, and is unbeaten on clay in 2015. He has not lost a match at the Grand Slam or Masters level since Shanghai, last October. On the contrary, Nadal, just won a minor Buenos Aires title in the 12 months since he beat Djokovic in Paris. His losses have racked up, a few against Djokovic, Fabio Fognini, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray which was on clay early this spring.
Since arriving in Paris, Djokovic has turned on the charm at Roland Garros, where he has bantered in French to the media in post-match interviews. The fans have been eating it up. They’ve noted that Djokovic is a remkarable 5-5 on clay against Nadal in the past four years. Nadal has been more quiet. Since he is arguably ‘the underdog’ in a match on the most famous clay-court in the world has found some unlikely sympathy from fans.
When asked if beating Nadal is important, he replied: “Of course it’s important, especially if I am on the quest to win this tournament.” He reflected on his loss from last year: “One of the nicest moments I have experienced was here last year in the closing ceremony against Nadal when I lost and I received a very emotional applause in which, in my eyes, sounded like ‘we respect your effort and we want you to come back next year and keep trying, keep trying to win the tournament.'”
There is an added element to the match up since Djokovic is trying to become the only man to defeat Nadal at all four Grand Slams. In comparison, Roger Federer has only defeated Nadal at one Slam — Wimbledon. Nadal’s French Open domination is well noted. Federer is 0-3 against Nadal in Melbourne (playing matches of three, four and five sets) and the two have famously never played at the U.S. Open, despite some close calls. So Djokovic’s record against him is quite phenomenal.
Can he continue that trend? Most likely, Yes. Djokovic is a force to be reckoned with this year and to fall in a quarter final when he’s on top on his game, is not likely to happen.
Even Djokovic feels the groove: “I never won against him at Roland Garros, but [on] the other hand I was close a couple of times.” And the fact that I have a great season this year and I’m feeling good from every aspect of my game allows me to have belief.”
We believe too.