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Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal: Their Two Previous French Open Quarterfinals

Djokovic Nadal French Open

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will play for the 10th time at Roland Garros in the quarterfinals of the 2022 French Open on Tuesday. Nadal holds a 7-2 head-to-head advantage at the Paris Grand Slam, with Djokovic winning their most recent clash in the semifinals of last year’s French Open.

The match will be the 59th encounter between the legendary pair–a men’s Open Era record. This will continue their run of having contested at least one match in every season since 2006.

Here, we look at the two previous French Open quarterfinal matches between Djokovic and Nadal:

2006: Nadal d. Djokovic 6-4 6-4 0-0 (ret.)

Nadal and Djokovic met for the first time ever in the last eight of the 2006 French Open. The Spaniard was the World No. 2 and defending champion, while the 63rd-ranked Serb was unseeded.

Both players dropped two sets en route to reaching the quarterfinal stage. Djokovic earned a five-set second round win over Fernando Gonzalez, while Nadal recorded consecutive four-set triumphs against Paul-Henri Mathieu and Lleyton Hewitt in the third and fourth round.

The Spaniard took both of the first two sets by a 6-4 scoreline, before his Serbian opponent retired at 15-30 in the opening game of the third set due to injury. It was his 58th straight victory on clay courts–a record streak that ended at 81 when he lost to Roger Federer in Hamburg in 2007.

In his target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”press conference, Djokovic claimed he had been in control of the match before retiring.

“I was playing pretty well. I think I was in control,” said the Serb. “Even with a sore back I think I played equal. I realized that I don’t need to play any special way (to beat Nadal). I think I could have won today. He’s not unbeatable. It was a difficult position for him. He was not in control of the match.”

Following the match, Nadal said: “I was surprised when he retired. He had problems but was still playing good.”

In the semifinals, the World No. 2 defeated No. 4 seed Ivan Ljubicic in straight sets. He then saw off World No. 1 Federer in four sets in the final to defend his French Open title.

2015: Djokovic d. Nadal 7-5 6-3 6-1

Following their 2006 quarterfinal meeting, Nadal had downed Djokovic five more times at the French Open heading into the 2015 tournament. Two of these clashes had come in finals (2012 and 2014), while three were in the semifinals (2007, 2008 and 2013).

The Serb was the top seed as the World No. 1. The Spaniard, meanwhile, was the five-time defending champion, but was seeded sixth during what was a difficult 2015 campaign for him.

Djokovic reached the last eight without dropping a set, while Nadal had lost a single set in beating Jack Sock in the fourth round.

The Serb took a competitive opening set 7-5 after the Spaniard recovered from 4-0 down to level at 4-4. The top seed then won the second set 6-3 after breaking for 5-3, before storming through the third set 6-1 to seal victory.

Djokovic became just the second player to defeat Nadal at Roland Garros after Robin Soderling in 2009. He reflected on the win in a post-match interview.
“It’s definitely a big win, a match that I will remember for a long time,” said the Serb. “You go through more emotions than for any other match. Of course, playing against Rafa in Roland Garros, it’s a special thing. It’s a special match.”

Nadal, meanwhile, gave an honest assessment of the contest. “He was better than me. That’s it. It’s very simple,” the Spaniard said. “When one opponent is playing better than you and is in better shape than you, that can happen.”

The Serb downed Andy Murray in a five-set semifinal that year, before falling to Stan Wawrinka in a memorable four-set final. He claimed his first French Open crown the following year.

Main Photo from Getty.


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