Fixture: (1) Novak Djokovic vs (3) Rafael Nadal
Date: 11 June 2021
Tournament: Roland Garros 2021
Venue: Paris, France
Category: Grand Slam
Surface: Red Clay
Prize money: €17,171,108
Match timing: Not before 5.30 pm local time, 3.30 pm GMT, 11.30 am EST, 9 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - NBC Sports / Tennis Channel | UK - ITV | India - Star Sports / Disney+ Hotstar VIP
Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal preview
Rafael Nadal will continue his quest for a record-extending 14th Roland Garros crown when he takes on arch-rival Novak Djokovic in the semifinals on Friday.
Nadal looked in imperious form at the start of his campaign in Paris, winning his first four matches without dropping a set. He then looked primed for another straightforward victory when he took the opening set of his quarterfinal clash with Diego Schwartzman.
But the Argentine hit back and took the second 6-4, making it the first time Nadal had lost a set on Parisian clay since the 2019 final. It didn't take long for the Spaniard to regain his rhythm though; he broke Schwartzman in the ninth game of the third set before serving it out to love.
It was one-way traffic from there on as Nadal bagelled the Argentine in the fourth set to register his 105th victory at the claycourt Grand Slam.
Novak Djokovic, on his part, enjoyed a similarly comfortable start to his week in Paris with three straight-sets wins. But he had to fend off an almighty scare in the fourth round against Lorenzo Musetti; the Serb battled back from a two-set deficit to claim a five-set victory.
Djokovic put in a more confident display at the start of his quarterfinal against Matteo Berrettini, taking the first two sets with ease. But the World No. 1 lost the third set in a tiebreaker, at which point the momentum seemed to be swinging Berrettini's way.
Play was then halted to remove fans from the stadium due to the COVID-19 curfew requirements in Paris and when it resumed, Djokovic hit top gear again. He put constant pressure on Berrettini's service games and the Italian eventually cracked while serving to stay in the match at 5-6.
Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal head-to-head
Novak Djokovic marginally leads the head-to-head against Rafael Nadal 29-28. But the Serb trails 7-1 at Roland Garros, with his lone victory coming in 2015.
Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal prediction
Novak Djokovic will be looking for some good old-fashioned revenge against Rafael Nadal, who won last year's final for the loss of just seven games. Djokovic was simply pulverized by Nadal in that meeting, and had no answer for the Spaniard's heavy groundstrokes.
Needless to say, he will be hoping for a different outcome this time around. But to do that Djokovic will need to open up the court with angled crosscourt shots and use the drop shot to get Nadal off the baseline. The Serb's first serve, which has earned him a lot of free points this tournament, will also need to be on point if he is to upstage the "King of Clay" at his favourite hunting ground.
Nadal on his part has been scintillating from the back of the court, striking 86 winners over the course of the tournament thus far. The Spaniard, has, however, struggled a little with his serve, double-faulting at crucial moments and missing his spots frequently.
Against Djokovic, who is widely considered the best returner on tour, Nadal will need to make major improvements in that area.
Having said that, the 13-time Roland Garros champion usually irons out all the chinks in his game by the time he meets the top players at the business end of Grand Slams. Nadal has never lost at this stage in Paris, and will likely have enough in the tank once again to come through.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in five sets.