The stories, over the years, lose originality but the essence is always left to scratch. That day in 2006, Toni Nadal broke into the room where his nephew was: “Rafael, we have a problem, I just saw a boy who is very good”. Uncle Toni fell silent before the manner of that young Serbian who would meet them for the first time in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros. The chronicles say that it is not that that day he gave a lot of war to Rafa, who already added two sets in favor when an injury accelerated things: Novak Djokovic went to the network, greeted his rival and told him that he could no longer continue.
Three decades later, the existence of one would be half without the other. Together with Roger Federer they make up the triumvirate that has ruled world tennis for almost the entire century. They hoard titles and distribute frustrations among all the twentysomethings who dream of the coup. Today, the Swiss has been left behind, for years, game and injuries, and fights in each Grand Slam to tread a peak where no one can reach: Roger has 20 grand, Rafa another 20 and Novak 18. It would be absurd to spend lines explaining the significance of the semifinals that Nadal and Djokovic will play today on the center court at Roland Garros.
Rafa has only lost one set
The 58th match of the greatest rivalry in tennis history (Serbian dominates 29-28) arrives with as much uncertainty as the rest. Impossible to ensure an outcome. Perhaps Nadal reaches a point above his rival, because during the tournament he has hardly suffered in his match against Schwartzman, leaving the only set, and his season on clay has been better. Well, this is Roland Garros.
The reef still
20 Grand Slams (13 Roland Garros)
Djokovic, on the other hand, had less filming and staggered before Musetti, but we are talking about the number one in the world and the one with the best and most weapons to bother the Mallorcan. Because the Nadal-Federer is a hymn to the lyrical, but the Spaniard plays with an advantage because he abuses Roger’s small defects – that ball that bounces so much backwards from the Swiss and that unhinges him so much …- but with Nole there is no magic formula, and if you lower the bar, ay.
But still knowing each other by heart, the strategy will rule today on clay dust. Rafa will exploit his virtues, his right at two speeds -with effect and cannon mode-, his physical control and his greater mental strength. It is about Djokovic not thinking, running and not hitting with his feet planted on the ground. From there, his two-handed backhand is a precision rifle. Saying it is simple … achieving it, another story.
18 Grand Slams (9 Open de Australia
“Our rivalry is historic”
On the eve of the big crash, during the early hours of Thursday, Djokovic’s speech was admirable: “Let’s face it, this is not going to be a game like the rest. Playing against Rafa on this court is a huge challenge and everything is different, the tension when he’s on the court, expectations … but that’s why our rivalry is historic. He has been the greatest rival I have ever had“I respect yes, but also a clear message:” Of course I think I can win it. “
Nadal, meanwhile, calmly awaits the match, a bit annoying because it reaches the semifinals and not the final round, as almost everyone would like, but the draw is king and neither should be confused. Defeating Nadal or beating Djokovic does not guarantee the Musketeers’ Cup, since on the other side of the table there are two fearsome candidates for the succession: Tsitsipas against Zverev. Greek and German are almost as favorite as tyrants in their thirties.
All set for another page in history: Chapter 58.