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13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal has beaten World number 1 Novak Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 to enter the semi-finals of the French Open.
Nadal has beaten Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 to secure a place in the semi-finals. The 13-time Roland Garros champion will meet Germany’s Alexander Zverev for a place in Sunday’s final.
They’ve now met 10 times at Roland-Garros alone, and their head-to-head here is dotted with matches widely regarded as some of the best to ever be played on this surface. Six-time champion Bjorn Borg called their 2013 semi-final the best clay-court match he’d ever seen, a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7 win for Nadal.
“He showed why he’s a great champion. You know, staying there mentally tough and finishing the match the way he did,” a subdued Djokovic said during his post-match press conference.
“Congrats to him and his team. No doubt he deserved it… I lost to a better player today.”
Djokovic came into the match with a 30-28 lead in his head-to-head over Nadal, but trailing the 13-time Roland-Garros champion 2-7 on his happiest hunting grounds.
It’s a trend that has been slowly turning in Djokovic’s favour in recent years: the Serbian handed Nadal his only Roland-Garros quarter-final loss in 2015, and his only semi-final defeat just last year.
“He was a better player, I think, in important moments,” Djokovic said. “I was gaining momentum as I was coming back in the second set, managed to win the second set, and I thought, ‘Okay, I’m back in the game’.
“But then he had another two, three fantastic games at the beginning of the third. He was just able to take his tennis to another level in those, particularly moments at the beginning of all sets, actually, except the fourth.
“I had my chances in the fourth. Served for the set, couple set points. Just one or two shots could have taken me into a fifth. Then it’s really anybody’s match.”
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