'Rafael Nadal is best on this surface, but not unbeatable,' Novak Djokovic recalls

“Rafael Nadal is the best on this surface, but not unbeatable,” recalls Novak Djokovic

Over the past 16 years, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have forged one of the greatest rivalries in tennis history. Two legends have met 59 times, and the first duel took place in 2006 at Roland Garros. Novak and Rafa met in one of the recent Majors quarterfinals and the Spaniard moved on as the Serb resigned from a 6-4, 6-4 deficit.

Djokovic pushed Nadal to the limit for an hour and 54 minutes in his first Major quarterfinal before retiring due to physical problems. Rafa won 20 points more than Novak, working hard for each of them after a valiant effort from the Serb.

Nadal got broken three times and converted half of the return points into five breaks that sent him two sets to love in front. Novak lost serve in the first game of the encounter before firing his forehand to pull the break back and put his name on the scoreboard.

The Spaniard broke again in game three and cemented the lead to 3:1. Novak closed game seven with an ace to stay within a break deficit, spraying a backhand error in the next game to put Rafa 5-3 ahead. Djokovic won the ninth game with a forehand winner to extend the fight before Nadal held at love to close the opener in 47 minutes and receive a boost.

The Spaniard earned a break early in the second set to bring home the second game on 15 for a 2-0 lead. Novak struggled physically, hitting a double fault in the third game to fall 3-0 down and required a coach for his left thigh.

Novak Djokovic spoke about Rafael Nadal after losing to him in Paris in 2006.

Rafa lost some ground after that break and was broken in game four before stealing Novak’s serve again after the Serb’s loose drop shot.

Nadal sprayed a forehand error in game six to hand to Djokovic before holding at love with a forehand winner for a 5-3 advantage in game eight. The defending champion, serving for the set at 5-4, fired a service winner for a 15-hold and two sets to lose the lead.

Djokovic hit a loose backhand in the first game of the third set and decided to stop and push Nadal into the semifinals. After the match, Djokovic explained that Nadal wasn’t comfortable against him on the court, had trouble reading his shots and didn’t look that unbeatable.

“Rafa wasn’t comfortable at the beginning. I think I was in control of the game; I didn’t finish it properly. Rafa is certainly the best on this surface but he’s not unbeatable. I could win today as he wasn’t know how to play against me,” said Novak Djokovic.

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