Write an Article

French Open 2013: Men’s Semi-Finals Preview


The stars have lined up for the weekend at Roland Garros.

Along the way, a few old-timers threatened to break through, and a Frenchman actually managed to disturb the perfect symmetry of a Top 4 seeds face-off, but the final four men who remain have been, by all accounts, the most consistent in the tournament, and the most worthy to be there. This was exemplified in the quarter-finals, where each of them turned in impeccable performances, playing their best tennis with almost a sense of entitlement to be in the last four.

As a result, we have two very well-balanced and incredibly hard-to-call semi-final matches on the line. The match-up that everyone has been talking about ever since the draw came out (and before), and the match-up that could either thrill or break a million French hearts.

Here is a preview of both, analyzed along four dimensions that could be pertinent to the outcome – Surface, Head-to-head, Occasion and Trending Form. A SHOT analysis, if you will.

Novak Djokovic [1] vs Rafael Nadal [3]

2012 French Open - Day Sixteen

  • Overall H2H: 15 – 19
  • Clay H2H: 3 – 12
  • Grand Slam H2H: 3 – 6
  • H2H since 2011: 8 – 3

Surface of Play

Quite simply, Nadal is the undisputed king of clay. The heavy top spin of his shots and his jaw-dropping defensive skills have become the stuff of tennis legend. While Djokovic pales in comparison, he is no clay court slouch himself. After initially making a name for himself on the hard courts, he established his premier clay credentials a couple of years back by doing the unthinkable – beating Nadal on clay for back-to-back titles at Madrid and Rome. But the sheer volume of victories, the natural alignment of his game to the surface, and the return of warm, sunny days to Roland Garros, gives Nadal the edge here.

Edge: Nadal

Head-to-Head Match-up

Their personal history has had two distinct phases so far. Till the end of 2010, Nadal effectively owned Djokovic, especially on the big stage, with occasional minor uprisings from the Serb. This is reflected in Nadal’s 16 victories in 23 encounters in that period. In 2011, Djokovic made his stirring run to the top of the table, and a major implication of that was on his head-to-head with Rafa. Since that period, Djokovic has won 8 of their 11 meetings, 3 of them in premier clay court finals, even forcing Nadal to acknowledge that Djokovic had ‘got into his head’. Since Rafa’s return to the circuit, it doesn’t appear that he has quite shaken off the bug yet. One of his only two losses this year came at the hands of the Djoker at Monte Carlo, a tournament Nadal calls home with 7 titles. Rafa’s fans, on the other hand, will look at their encounter from last year’s French Open as a more appropriate indicator for Friday.

Edge: Djokovic


To say the context of this match is huge would be an understatement. Nadal is looking to achieve an eighth title triumph at a single Grand Slam tournament, which would be unprecedented in the sport’s history. Djokovic is aiming to achieve his personal Grand Slam by picking up the one trophy missing in his collection. Besides, the outcome of this match can be expected to have a huge bearing on the future dynamics of their rivalry. Given all that, it was interesting to hear what both of them thought about their semi-final in their press conferences. While Djokovic labeled it the ‘biggest match of our campaign’, Nadal was content to call it ‘a match which would lead to getting into the final’. While these responses are typical of their individual personalities, it must be said that Djokovic has gone public on multiple occasions, stating that Roland Garros is his number one priority for the year. In addition, he went through the emotional upheaval of the loss of a dear coach earlier this week. And Djokovic tends to be inspired, rather than distracted, by events like that. Both players will be desperate for victory, but perhaps Djokovic a tiny bit more.

Edge: Djokovic

Trending Form

Both players have smoothly got into their grooves over the course of the last five matches at Roland Garros. While Nadal looked slightly off-colour in his first couple of rounds, and Djokovic was made to sweat by Kohlschreiber in the fourth round, their performances in the quarter-finals against worthy opponents were excellent and signaled the typical champion’s tendency to find the best form when he needs it the most.

However, looking back at the rest of the clay court season that preceded the French Open, Nadal definitely did have the upper hand. Titles at Barcelona, Madrid and Rome capped off an incredible return to the game after a 7 month layoff for him. Djokovic, on the other hand, had a few puzzling losses in the lead-up tournaments, which must rankle. All will be forgotten, though, if he lifts the trophy on Sunday.

Edge: Nadal

Prediction: Nadal wins in a barn-burner of a 5-set match, which will write a whole new chapter in their rivalry

Random Point to Ponder: Along the lines of the Fedal rivalry, which term has a better ring to it – Rafole or Djodal?

Page 1 of 2 Next

Nadal on track for Rio Olympics
Rio Olympics 2016: Why India’s chances of winning a tennis medal suddenly look a lot brighter An analysis of India's mixed doubles medal chances which look brighter after recent key withdrawals.
Djokovic stands between Murray and second gold
Wawrinka advances to Toronto quarter-finals
Rio 2016: With Roger Federer and Bencic gone, what's next for team Switzerland? We are only a week away from the Olympic Games, with a spanner thrown in Switzerland's works ahead of Rio.
Rafa Nadal's injury situation "delicate", says Ferrer
Volleyball star Tetyukhin named Russia's Olympic flag bearer
Rio Olympics 2016: After Federer, Belinda Bencic withdraws from Olympics The World No. 16 was due to partner Martina Hingis in the women's doubles.
Rogers Cup 2016: Results from the Toronto and Montreal Masters All the men's and women's results from the Toronto and Montreal Masters ahead of Rio 2016
Interview with Yuki Bhambri: "The Indian tennis system needs an overhaul" Bhambri spoke about the future of his own career, of Indian tennis and the country's hopes at the Olympic Games.
Djokovic, Raonic win opening matches in Rogers Cup
Djokovic dumps Mueller to reach third round in Toronto
Wawrinka advances in Rogers Cup Toronto, July 27 (IANS) Second seed Stan Wawrinka headlined the seeded players to advance on the second day of action in Rogers Cup Main Draw tourname ...
Stan Wawrinka battles past Youzhny in Toronto
Rumours: Rafael Nadal might pull out of Rio Olympics singles, to play doubles Nadal is recovering from a wrist injury that made him miss the Wimbledon Championships.
Monfils cruises into second round in Toronto
Federer to miss Rio games
Rio Olympics 2016, Tennis: Roger Federer to miss the Games, out for the rest of the season This has been an injury-plagued season for the maestro that saw him withdrawing from the French Open in May.
Roger Federer to miss Olympics and rest of season
Putin will not attend Rio Olympics opening ceremony
More →
Related articles