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Passport to RG, Day 13—Nadal, Djokovic to meet in historic Paris final
Rafael Nadal defeated Diego Schwartzman in straight sets, before Novak Djokovic held off Stefanos Tsitsipas in five during Friday’s semifinals.
October 09, 2020
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From first ball to last, keep up to date with the latest from Roland Garros every day on TENNIS.com. We’ll have match updates, photos, video highlights and more in our daily notebook: Passport to RG.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will clash for the eighth time at Roland Garros. Nadal has lost two matches in 101 career matches at the Paris major, with one of those defeats coming at the hands of Djokovic a little more than five years ago when the two last met in Paris (Nadal leads 6-1). Both spoke about Sunday’s matchup in their virtual press conferences following their semifinal victories.
Nadal: “The only thing I know is to play against Novak, I need to play my best. Without playing my best tennis, [the] situation is very difficult. I know that is a court that I have been playing well [on] for such a long time, so that helps. But at the same time he has an amazing record here, too, being in the final rounds almost every single time. [He] is one of the toughest opponents possible. But I am here to keep trying my best. I like to play in this scenario. I know I have to make a step forward. I think I did one today. But for Sunday is not enough. I need to make another one. That’s what I’m looking for. I going to work hard to try to make that happen.”
Djokovic: “He’s lost twice in his entire career on this court. Obviously the conditions are different than the ones that we are used to playing in May and June. I think that could be a better chance for me, obviously the ball not bouncing as high over the shoulder as he likes it usually. Regardless of the conditions, he’s still there, he’s Rafa, he’s in the finals and we’re playing on clay. Best-of-five playing him in the finals at Roland Garros, I know that feeling. I did lose to him on this court most of the matches that we played, but I also won one match in 2015 in straight sets in quarters. That’s the match that I’ll look back at and obviously try to take some positives out of it and use it tactically against him.”
Blockbuster set! Djokovic to face Nadal Sunday
History will be made on Sunday when Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal renew their rivalry at Roland Garros. Djokovic held off an inspired Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, after missing his chance to shut the door in straight sets. The world No. 1 is through to the Roland Garros final for the first time since raising the trophy in 2016.
Set to clash for the 56th time (Djokovic leads 29-26, and has won 14 of their 18 meetings), each are seeking their own piece of history. A record-extending 13th French Open title would see Nadal equal Roger Federer’s men’s record of 20 Grand Slam singles and achieve his 100th career Roland Garros win. For Djokovic, he is looking to become the first man in the Open Era to win all four majors at least twice. A second win over Nadal in Paris would enable Djokovic to move to within two Slams of Federer and one of Nadal.
Djokovic strikes first in decider, leads 3-1
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic ended a one for 12 run on break points and consolidated to grab the early momentum in the fifth set versus Stefanos Tsitsipas. Djokovic has been incredibly effective with his dropper, winning 35 of 37 points at stretch, and looks to continue testing the Greek’s legs. Djokovic is aiming to extend his 215-1 record when he holds a two-set lead at majors.
TO A FIFTH WE GO!
Tsitsipas broke Djokovic to end the fourth set, 6-4. Can he do the improbable and become just the second man to beat the Serbian in a major from two sets down? He’ll have the luxury of serving first to start their decider.
Reminder: Djokovic held match point on his serve at 5-4, 40-30, in the third set. Tsitsipas also has a recent memory to draw from, in wiping away a two-set deficit for the first time his career during his first-round win over Jaume Munar just 10 days ago.
Standing his ground: Tsitsipas posts big hold
Djokovic had four break points to take a 4-3 lead against Tsitsipas in their fourth set. The Greek played aggressively in all four points, safely holding to stay in front. After taking four of his first five break points in the first two sets, Djokovic has gone just one for 10 since. Of note: Tsitsipas had the trainer come out for treatment on his left leg before that hold.
Shot of the day contender?
He went down an early break to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth set, but Novak Djokovic may have earned shot of the day honors thanks to his tremendous touch. Djokovic delicately hit a high backhand overhead for a short-angled winner, and would eventually break to get back on serve before holding for 2-2.
Not done yet! Tsitsipas claims third set
From match point down, Stefanos Tsitsipas wins the final three games of the third set to deny Novak Djokovic a straight-sets victory. The reigning ATP Finals champion clinched the set, 7-5, with a blazing forehand down the line winner.
Tsitsipas breaks with Djokovic serving for the match
It took 11 break point opportunities, but Stefanos Tsitsipas finally converted to stay alive against Novak Djokovic. The top seed held a match point at 5-4, but couldn’t get across the line. Tsitsipas played with nothing to lose, much like Diego Schwartzman did late in his third set against Rafael Nadal. Can Tsitsipas do one better than the Argentine and snatch this set?
A set away from a Djokovic-Nadal final
The smallest of letdowns can see a set get away from you, and for Stefanos Tsitsipas, that’s exactly what happened. Novak Djokovic twice broke Tsitsipas when the world No. 6 held 40-0 leads in the second set to build a 6-3, 6-2 lead. Djokovic also found his rhythm on serve, increasing his first serve percentage from 62% in the opening set, to 78%. The Serb has only lost won in his career from two sets up (10 years ago in Paris to Jurgen Melzer).
Djokovic breaks for 3-2 in set two
Fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas had won 11 of 14 serve points to start set two, looking primed to hold for 3-2 after going up 40-0. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic had other ideas, stringing together the next five points. Djokovic has capitalized on both of his break chances, while Tsitsipas missed two more opportunities in the second game of the set, dropping to zero for seven in this match.
First set Djokovic, 6-3
Trailing 2-4, Tsitsipas had a chance to get back on serve against Djokovic. The Greek was in control of the point, but his decision to stay back cost him. Djokovic came up with a stellar forehand drop volley to save his fifth break point of the set, and Tsitsipas’ best window of opportunity to get back in it never resurfaced. Three straight unforced errors from the top seed in the ninth game made closing out the set more interesting than it needed to be.
Like Nadal, Djokovic survives testing first game, then breaks
World No. 1 Djokovic quickly found himself down 0-40 to start his semifinal with Tsitsipas. He would claw his way out of the hole, and saved a fourth break point. And on a game point, came up with an unreal off-balanced backhand pass to hold. Naturally, Djokovic broke in the next game on his first opportunity, and consolidated without any resistance. The Serbian has won 10 of the last 11 points. Of note: Djokovic’s neck, which was taped in his last minute, is without the patchwork today.
Nadal to play for 20th major title & 100th RG match win
Make it 13-0 in semifinal matches at Roland Garros for Rafael Nadal. The No. 2 seed defeats Diego Schwartzman, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (0), to avenge his Rome defeat to the Argentinean. Schwartzman held three break points in the 11th game of the third set, enticing Nadal to go on the offensive (which included a serve and volley on break point No. 3). Schwartzman would continue making one final stand to get into a tiebreaker, where Nadal would ultimately put his foot down to wrap up the hard-fought win in three hours and nine minutes. A Pinball Wizard, anyone?
The lefty will now sit back and wait to see if Novak Djokovic will join him on Sunday, or if Stefanos Tsitsipas will move into his first major final. Should Nadal improve to 13-0 in title matches at the Paris major, he’ll tie Roger Federer with his 20th Grand Slam trophy, an all-time men’s record, and reach the 100 match wins mark at the clay-court Slam.
Schwartzman not going away quietly
Down two sets, Schwartzman pulled out the tweener early in the third set. He’s been down a break twice to Nadal, yet has managed to get back on serve in a stretch that saw the two competitors trade four consecutive breaks. After losing his first service point at 3-4, Schwartzman won four in a row to draw even.
Iga’s shot at claiming ‘RG double’ ended
Poland’s Iga Swiatek had a rare opportunity to play for both the singles and doubles titles coming into today. Partnering Nicole Melichar, the duo led by a break, 4-3, and held two game points to consolidate in their third set against former NCAA standouts Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk. The Chilean-American dug in to deny the hold of serve, and would win the final three games to dash Swiatek’s hopes of a Paris trophy sweep.
In command: Rafa up two sets
While he went down an early break, Diego Schwartzman kept pace with Rafael Nadal in the second set. He came up with a terrific defensive forehand shot to create a 0-30 opening in the sixth game (see GIF below), and held from 0-40 down after not being able to use that window to reach 3-4. Nadal however, would post a love hold before breaking the No. 12 seed for a fourth time. He leads, 6-3, 6-3, and is 217-1 on the major stage when up two sets to love.
Nadal grabs 6-3 lead after 64 minutes
Both players came to work, but it’s Rafael Nadal who leads Diego Schwartzman, 6-3. Schwartzman created more break point chances, going just one for four, while Nadal capitalized on both of his opportunities. The 12-time champion finished with 16 winners to 11 unforced errors and has the edge in rallies of 0-4 shots (14 to 6) and 5-8 shots (14 to 10). Schwartzman has a 3:2 ratio in exchanges lasting nine points or longer (15 to 10), though the Spaniard won the rally of the set in a crucial 40-40 point during the final game.
A chance to put the past behind for Mladenovic
The past six weeks for Kristina Mladenovic have been rough to say the least. She lost from 6-1, 5-1, 40-0 up against Varvara Graceva at the US Open. The Frenchwoman and Timea Babos were soon withdrawn by organizers in the doubles event as a result of Mladenovic coming into contact with Benoit Paire, who had tested positive for COVID-19. And last week in Paris, on set point, saw the chair umpire miss a double bounce against Laura Siegemund. She would fail to convert seven set points in total and lost her opener in straights to the German.
Reunited with Babos, Mladenovic will now have a chance to depart her home major with a trophy after the two won a battle between the past two team champions. Mladenovic and Babos, who won this event last year, edged 2018 winners Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5. Mladenovic is seeking her third Roland Garros title, having also triumphed in 2016 with Caroline Garcia. She and Babos won their third major together earlier this year at the Australian Open.
Rafa and Diego battling from the start
Beginning with a 40-15 lead, it took Rafael Nadal 14 minutes to hold in his opening game versus Diego Schwartzman. The Argentine missed out on two break point opportunities, and paid the price in the next game. Sandwiched in between a double fault, two backhand errors found the net, resulting in dropping serve. Though unable to consolidate, Nadal would break again and leads 4-2—after 46 minutes.
Nadal faces Schwartzman, with Djokovic vs. Tsitsipas to follow
Will we get a blockbuster men’s final between the world No. 1 and No. 2, or will a first-time Roland Garros semifinalist have something to say about that? We’ll have our answer come Friday evening.
Rafael Nadal looks to take another big step forward towards a record-extending 13th crown. The man across the net, Diego Schwartzman, beat him 20 days ago in Rome. Only one player has ever defeated Nadal in consecutive clay-court tournaments: Novak Djokovic in 2011 (Madrid and Rome). If that’s not a big enough ask for Schwartzman, Nadal is 24-0 in Paris once reaching the semifinal stage and has won 28 straight matches at the event.
In the second semifinal, Djokovic battles No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Serbian, who had some injury concerns with his neck and left arm during his four-set win over Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarterfinals, has won 12 of his past 13 major semifinal matches. Tsitsipas hopes to continue an interesting trend against Djokovic, whose last four losses at Roland Garros over the past five years have come to players owning one-handed backhands.
Should Nadal and Djokovic get through, it would set up their 56th tour-level encounter, the most in the Open Era.