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Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal: Top 10 matches between the greats

The two great rivals in action at the 2021 French Open
The two great rivals in action at the 2021 French Open
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Subhashish Majumdar

The epic battles between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have captivated the hearts and minds of tennis purists. Enumerating the best encounters the two tennis wizards have been involved in can be an ominous task given the sheer numbers and the intensity of the enthralling duels.

58 memorable clashes between the pair have resulted in Novak Djokovic holding a razor-thin lead over his long-time Spanish rival, with the head-to-head currently reading 30-28 in the Serb's favor.

Of the 17 Grand Slam matches that the two have been a part of, Nadal leads 10-7 while Dokovic has emerged victorious in 15 out of 28 summit clashes.

Here is a list of 10 matches that, among many others, will not be forgotten in a hurry by those who have had the privilege of witnessing them.


#10 Rogers Cup semifinals, 2013

A pumped-up Nadal covered the court swiftly and decisively, clenching his fists following every winner and apologizing to Djokovic after an unplayable double-handed return inadvertently hit the Serb on his body.

On a hardcourt surface which Djokovic so loved, the Spaniard had the audience in raptures with his spectacular artistry and notched up a well-deserved win, proving yet again that he could beat the very best on any surface.

Result: Nadal beat Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2)

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#9 French Open final, 2012

2012 French Open semifinals
2012 French Open semifinals

The summit clash lasted not one, but two days as the rain pelted down in Paris.

Amidst the signature grunts from the King of Clay and the long baseline rallies so typical of the French Open, Nadal raced to a 3-0 lead before the Serb drew level, which was a sign of things to come.

The see-saw battle continued as the two-time defending champion displayed his near-superhuman prowess by claiming a record seventh French Open title.

Result: Nadal beat Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5

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#8 French Open quarterfinals, 2006

While encounters are usually noteworthy owing to the sheer quality of the action on display, in the case of epic rivalries, numbers and trivia too play a part in deciding the ones that deserve a mention.

The reigning French Open champion met Djokovic for the first time in 2006 in a quarter-final encounter at Roland Garros.

Sadly, the game isn't one the Serb would like to remember after being forced to retire hurt. But it set the stage for several classics that followed and will go down as the match that began one of the most famous rivalries in sport.

Result: Nadal beat Djokovic 6-4, 6-4

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#7 Wimbledon semifinals, 2018

The famed center court of Wimbledon witnessed a marathon semifinal in 2018.

Djokovic had dropped out of the top 20 for a while earlier that year and the last-four clash on grass will be remembered as the one in which the Serb made an emphatic return to form.

It was the longest-ever semifinal in Wimbledon history, lasting five hours and 15 minutes. Djokovic overcame stiff resistance from his long-time rival and went on to win the championship by beating Kevin Anderson in the final.

Incidentally, both players have won two matches apiece against each other on grass thus far.

Djokovic beat Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-8

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The Championships - Wimbledon 2011: Djokovic triumphs on grass
The Championships - Wimbledon 2011: Djokovic triumphs on grass

#6 Wimbledon Final, 2011

Djokovic held the edge during the 2011 season, especially in the finals of several tournaments over the course of the year and also those leading up to Wimbledon.

The Serb, who was then World No. 2, helped himself to a 2-0 lead and despite some stiff resistance from Nadal, who claimed the third set 6-1, went on to bag a well-deserved Wimbledon crown and move to the top of the ATP rankings.

Result: Djokovic beat Nadal 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3

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#5 French Open Semifinals, 2013

Nadal and Djokovic faced each other just once prior to the Roland Garros semifinals during the 2013 season, with the Serb ending Nadal's eight-year stint as the Monte-Carlo Masters champion.

It was the 35th meeting between the stalwarts and despite the warm conditions and the occasional stumble, Nadal produced some delectable winners that mesmerized the galleries.

Djokovic got the crowd behind him with some fierce crosscourt volleys that zipped past a lunging Nadal but the Spaniard had the last laugh that evening in a five-set humdinger that ended in his favor.

Result: Nadal beat Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7

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#4 US Open Final, 2011

We go back again to 2011, when Djokovic was steaming ahead of his rival. The Serb got the better of Nadal several times and kept up the dominance in New York as well.

It was a rematch of the 2010 US Open final with sheer firepower on display, as both finalists hit the ball as if their lives depended on it.

Brutal attacking strikes from the baseline accompanied by the odd deft touch near the net characterized this encounter, which the Serb clinched in a crackling four-setter.

Result: Djokovic beat Nadal 6โ€“2, 6โ€“4, 6โ€“7(3), 6โ€“1

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2012 Australian Open Final - one of the greatest matches ever
2012 Australian Open Final - one of the greatest matches ever

#3 Australian Open Final, 2012

An unforgettable match for a variety of reasons. Djokovic played an intense five-setter against Andy Murray in the semifinals and there was little respite in the title clash that lasted almost six hours.

The crowd at Rod Laver Arena didn't leave their seats until well past 1 a.m. in one of the greatest matches in Australian Open history and one of the longest ever.

Djokovic emerged as the victor, but not before tennis fans had been treated to the match of a lifetime.

Result: Djokovic beat Nadal 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7(5) 7-5

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#2 Mutua Madrid Open Semifinal, 2009

Nadal and Djokovic faced off in the semifinals of the Madrid Open at a time when their rivalry was beginning to gather steam.

The clash lasted over four hours, and any mention of the tournament brings back memories of the 2009 duel.

Considered to be one of the best-ever matches played on clay at the time, the Spaniard eventually prevailed in a best-of-three encounter.

Result: Nadal beat Djokovic 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(9)

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#1 French Open Semifinals, 2021

History was created on Philippe Chatrier in Paris when an imperious Djokovic stamped his authority while his opponent looked a wee-bit jaded as the match progressed.

The Serb later said that the 2021 semifinal was one of the best matches he had ever played. The King of Clay was outlasted and outdone by the power, precision, and determination of Djokovic, who would go on to win the French Open that year.

"Definitely the best match that I was part of ever in Roland Garros for me," Djokovic said. "And top three matches that I ever played in my entire career, considering quality of tennis, playing my biggest rival on the court where he has had so much success and has been the dominant force in the last 15-plus years, and the atmosphere which was completely electric. For both players, a lot of support. Just amazing."

Result: Djokovic beat Nadal 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2

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Also check out :-Charleston Open 2022 Schedule


Edited by Nihal Taraporvala
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