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Chapter 58 for Djokovic, Nadal at French Open
In this file photo taken on October 11, 2020, Spain's Rafael Nadal and Serbia's Novak Djokovic talk prior to their men's final tennis match at the Philippe Chatrier court at The Roland Garros 2020 French Open tennis tournament in Paris.
Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

Chapter 58 for Djokovic, Nadal at French Open

(Agence France-Presse) - June 11, 2021 - 9:14am

PARIS – Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal clash for the 58th time on Friday (Saturday, Manila time) on the same court where they first met 15 years ago with a place in the French Open final at stake.

It is tennis's greatest modern rivalry between two men who have harvested 38 Grand Slam titles between them and 72 Masters.

Djokovic has spent more weeks at world number one than any other player while 13-time French Open winner Nadal has not been out of the top 10 in 16 years.

Nadal will start Friday's semifinal as favorite, buoyed by his record of 105 wins and just two losses in his Roland Garros career.

The 35-year-old also has the edge over Djokovic on clay with a 19-7 career lead and 7-1 in Paris.

Djokovic hasn't beaten Nadal on the surface since Rome in 2016.

He can, however, boast being one of only two men to have defeated Nadal in Paris, in the quarterfinals in 2015.

"It's a well-anticipated semifinal and here we are," said Djokovic of a rivalry which started on Court Philippe Chatrier in 2006.

"We had some battles over the years on this court."

Nadal defeated 2016 champion Djokovic in straight sets in last year's final, the Serb's third loss in the championship match in Paris to the Spaniard.

There is plenty at stake on Friday as the two rivals close in on Sunday's final.

Djokovic can win a 19th Slam and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Slams twice.

Victory for Nadal would give him a record-setting 21st major, breaking the tie with Roger Federer.

"The vibes are different walking on the court with him," added Djokovic. "But that's why our rivalry has been historic."

It's been a topsy-turvy tournament for Djokovic.

After racing through the first three rounds, he had to come back from two sets down to defeat Italian 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti.

In the quarterfinals, he dropped the third set against Matteo Berrettini.

With the exception of a second-set blip in the quarterfinals against Diego Schwartzman, Nadal has reached his 14th semifinal relatively unscathed.

Despite his clay court stranglehold on Djokovic, Nadal isn't getting too far ahead of himself.

'Big difference'

"It is a semifinal, not a final. That's a big difference," he said.

The latest chapter of Djokovic v Nadal has overshadowed Friday's other semifinal between Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany.

They have met seven times but just once on clay in Madrid in 2019 when Tsitsipas triumphed.

The 22-year-old Tsitsipas is in his third successive semifinal at the Slams and took Djokovic to five sets in the last four at Roland Garros in 2020.

He arrived in Paris with clay court titles this year in Monte Carlo and Lyon and had a match point to beat Nadal in the Barcelona final.

Zverev is in his first semifinal at Roland Garros having almost fallen at the first hurdle against 152nd-ranked compatriot Oscar Otte.

Whoever makes it to Sunday's final will have their work cut out.

Tsitsipas is 2-7 against Nadal and 2-5 playing Djokovic.

Zverev is 3-6 when taking on Nadal and 2-6 facing Djokovic.

Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) v Rafael Nadal (ESP x3)

Head-to-head: Djokovic leads 29-28

Paths to the semifinal (x indicates seeded player):

Djokovic

1st rd: bt Tennys Sandgren (USA) 6-2, 6-4, 6-2

2nd rd: BT Pablo Cuevas (URU) 6-3, 6-2, 6-4

3rd rd: bt Ricardas Berankis (LTU) 6-1, 6-4, 6-1

4th rd: bt Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) 6-7 (7/9), 6-7 (2/7), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0 - retired

QF: bt Matteo Berrettini (ITA x9) 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5

Nadal

1st rd: bt Alexi Popyrin (AUS) 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3)

2nd rd: bt Richard Gasquet (FRA) 6-0, 7-5, 6-2

3rd rd: bt Cameron Norrie (GBR) 6-3, 6-3, 6-3

4th rd: bt Jannik Sinner (ITA x18) 7-5, 6-3, 6-0

QF: bt Diego Schwartzman (ARG x10) 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0

Alexander Zverev (GER x6) v Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x5)
Head-to-head: Tsitsipas leads 5-2 

Paths to the semifinal (x indicates seeded player):

Zverev

1st rd: bt Oscar Otte (GER) 3-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0

2nd rd: bt Roman Safiullin (RUS) 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 7-6 (7/1)

3rd rd: bt Laslo Djere (SRB) 6-2, 7-5, 6-2

4th rd: bt Kei Nishikori (JPN) 6-4, 6-1, 6-1

QF: bt Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) 6-4, 6-1, 6-1

Tsitsipas

1st rd: bt Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 6-1

2nd rd: bt Pedro Martinez (ESP) 6-3, 6-4, 6-3

3rd rd: bt John Isner (USA x31) 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 6-1

4th rd: bt Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP x12) 6-3, 6-2, 7-5

QF: bt Daniil Medvedev (RUS x2) 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 7-5

FRENCH OPEN NOVAK DJOKOVIC RAFAEL NADAL TENNIS
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