In the 58th Rafael Nadal-Novak Djokovic match, a spot in the French Open final is on the line.
When the long-time rivals meet for the 58th time on Friday, Novak Djokovic will seek vengeance against Rafael Nadal.
This semi-final matchup has seemed inevitable since the French Open draw was made two weeks ago, and Djokovic will aim to do what only he and Robin Soderling have done before: upset Nadal at Roland Garros.
Djokovic won the tournament in the quarter-finals in 2015, and he was considered a slight favorite coming into last year’s final against the great Spaniard, only to be given a two-set clay-court tennis lesson.
“Obviously, it’s a highly anticipated semi-final,” said Djokovic, who leads the head-to-head 29-28.
“There was a lot of buzz about that potential match-up. We’ve arrived. We’re going to have to confront each other again. On this court, we’ve had a few fights throughout the years. He dominated the finals against me last year.
“On Friday, obviously, different conditions will be played. I’m hoping to be able to compete at a greater level than I did last year, particularly in the opening two sets of the final.
“The quality and level of tennis I’ve been playing on clay in the previous three, four weeks – Rome, Belgrade, and here – has left me with positive sensations and feelings ahead of that match. I’m sure of myself. I am confident in my ability to win; else, I would not be here. Let’s have a fantastic fight.”
Djokovic’s extraordinary reaction to his late-night victory over Matteo Berrettini on Wednesday, screaming at the top of his voice towards his support camp in a release of pent-up tension, showed again just what these tournaments mean to him.
Victory over Nadal and in the final on Sunday would see him close to within one title of the Spaniard and Roger Federer at the top of the all-time men’s grand slam standings and also see him become the first of the trio to win each tournament at least twice.
“This isn’t like any other match,” Djokovic remarked. “Let’s face it, it’s the biggest challenge that. (This is a short article)