French Open Diary — 59 Thoughts on Nadal-Djokovic LIX
Updated: Jun 2, 2022
Nadal-Djokovic LIX. That's a lot matches. To commemorate the occasion, here are 59 observations from yours truly on the latest encounter between two of the game's giants.
I fear this attempt was too ambitious.
No matter how well he started, it was going to be hard to make Rafa fans feel comfortable. It was a dream beginning if you're in the Spainard’s camp though. Vintage Nadal on Chatrier is a sight to behold.
Djokovic’s level wasn’t there in the first set. We’ve seen this before, namely in 2021 at this very tournament when he turned things around. It wouldn’t take much for him to ‘find it.’
How was this match a quarterfinal?
We really needed a lift after Alcaraz-Zverev.
It’s a special rivalry. I think anytime you can watch the best of a generation play each other it’s different, but this spectacle transcends the sport.
59 is a big number. I did not remember that Djokovic retired after two sets in their first ever ATP meeting in the quarterfinals of the 2006 French Open. The ‘he retires too often’ narrative that surrounded Novak then is fascinating to revisit considering the aura he has on the court now.
These guys took absolute ages in between points. A 6-2 set doesn’t take one hour in a just world. Pace of play remains important in this curmudgeon's eyes.
Peak Nadal sighting II: Djokovic raising his level on several break points to open the second set only to ultimately succumb to Nadal’s relentless pressure.
Do you think Roger watched this match? I wonder what he actually thinks about how things have developed since that 2019 Wimbledon final.
Full disclosure that I still identify as a Roger fan. A billionaire I can still love, but for how much longer..
Djokovic’s consistency in the face of constant turmoil is one of his most impressive traits. Nadal’s level remained high in the second stanza but so did Novak’s will. The Serbian’s game would eventually catch up.
Rafa’s first serve deserted him at the worst time.
Novak did not seem comfortable coming to the net. Nadal was able to escape the aftermath of poor drop shots thanks to Djokovic’s timidity.
The sixth game of set 2 took 18 minutes and 43 seconds to complete. What the actual hell.
Djokovic finally broke for 3-3 and the nervous murmurs in the crowd could be felt through the TV screen.
At this point, even with Rafa up a set it was Novak’s match to lose.
A lot of talk about the conditions and rightfully so. They play a huge role whenever these two meet, especially at Rolly G. The ‘slow as shit’ place we found ourselves in on Tuesday night helped Djokovic was the thought.
How did you pick your Big 3 favourite? I’ve had this conversation with a lot of people and find the answers fascinating.
Roger’s style was the easy sell, and two youngsters crashing the game with brute force didn’t sit well with me. It took Federer’s career coming to an end to really appreciate Djokovic and Nadal for what they are (at least on the court). For that, I have some regrets. They’ve been great-great for a stupid long time.
The Jim Courier-Jason Goodall commentary team is one of the best tennis has to offer. Courier brings a sense of positivity that I can’t exactly pin down but appreciate.
2 hours in and we played 14 games. Lmao.
Djokovic let out a special ‘I’m here to ruin your day’ roar after capturing four games in a row to seize control of the match. Nadal’s legs began to wobble. Surely this was the beginning of the end.
Does it matter how long a match takes if it’s good? This was a solid test for that argument. I’d say the quality of play made the slog between points tolerable.
Rafa received a time violation warning for taking too long to serve which…yea sure. I mean are we ever going to enforce this rule consistently?
What makes this rivalry so compelling is the exertion required by both players to get over the line. Every movement is crucial, every swing. They don’t place self-imposed restrictions on what’s possible between the lines.
Both players looked physically compromised by the end of the second set. Did Marin Cilic watch this eating an ice cream sundae with the required toppings? Did Casper Ruud practice a speech in front of his bathroom mirror? I hope so.
Djokovic began cleaning up the backhand to backhand exchanges. It’s the shot that’s led him to success against Rafa in the past and was the difference maker as we hit 11:20 PM local time. A set all but the match wasn’t actually tied. The edge belonged to the world No. 1.
Started to feel a whole lot like 2021.
Considering Novak was down a double break in that set and still found a way, the superlatives were apt. What a fighter.
Nadal and Djokovic played together as a doubles team once in their careers. It was in Toronto and they lost to Raonic and Pospisil back in 2010.
I read this week that they were actually close for a time and that they shared the same PR manager too. It does not seem that bond remains in place.
The amount of blankets in the crowd gave the impression this was a very expensive sleepover party. Exclusive.
Of course Nadal would begin the crucial third set with a break and consolidation. Nothing about this rivalry was ever straightforward.
Juan Martin del Potro, tennis twitter member, something I desperately needed: “Night fell, the balls get heavier, the court gets wetter and Rafa's game stops being so spicy with these conditions. No idea who wins.“ Well said, good sir.
The fact this match started at 8:45 PM local time was aggressively stupid in hindsight.
Djokovic’s level disappeared in set three. Shocking considering what we had witnessed the set prior.
The 2nd set: 88 minutes. 3rd set: less than half that.
Hard to disagree with this sentiment from Trenton Jocz: A match full of high quality moments, but lacking both players at their best at the same time is a common sight at this stage of the Big 3 era.
Let me be the 749th person to say this match started in May but ended in June. I’m here all night.
Nadal rolled to a comfortable 6-2 third set triumph. At this point the mountain to climb for Djokovic was stark. Nadal was 68-4 at majors when up two sets to one, which includes a 5-0 record against Djokovic and a 20-0 mark at Roland Garros when heading into the fourth set with a lead.
Priyanka reported the blankets were only for the glitterati in the bottom bowl, leaving the normies in the upper deck to shiver on their own. Feels about right.
Now the hardest part: putting Novak away.
Djokovic lashed out at the net after a mistake led to a Nadal point. Boos but no warning from the umpire. The net was decidedly ‘against’ Novak on this day.
Why was there no warning? Once again, some consistency please.
More controversy. Nadal is broken after a shot that was initially called good is ruled wide by the umpire. The crowd was even more upset now. You get the feeling Novak liked that.
Nadal was thoroughly shook following that break and it was his turn to disappear completely as Djokovic began to ramp up again. Almost a mirror of the third set. Total points won: Nadal 122, Djokovic 115.
Deafening cries of ‘Rafa’ from the crowd were met by some loose Djokovic points. But once again perfect placement on a key first serve. Then phenomenal defense on a Nadal break point. Novak made the correct decision so many times on vital points to survive the Rafa pushback.
But it wasn’t enough. Nadal didn’t relent. One fabulous forehand later and we were back on serve. Never underestimate the heart of a champion.
Only at 5-5 in the fourth set did I fully believe Nadal could win this match. That’s the level of doubt Djokovic plants in your mind, at all times.
What a treat watching these two play with so much on the line. We’ll miss this shit *begins crying in the club.*
Four hours later, a tiebreak to decide if we needed a fifth set.
A perfect start for Nadal. He seeks to own tiebreaks, deciding them on his racket rather than playing on the defensive. He executed his plan in the opening points to near perfection.
He’s won 21 majors. Accomplished almost everything the game has to offer. But I’m still amazed watching Nadal on this court. It’s that superhuman ability he has to find a way. His forehand down the line will be studied by scientists in the distant future.
Yannick Noah laughed when he was asked to pick the winner of this match. He went with Rafa, even with the conditions at night, citing some past experience on this court. Turns out Noah knows a thing or two.
4 hours and 12 minutes. 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6. The defending champion out and Rafa in the driver seat for title No. 14 at the French Open.
Was this the best match they’ve played? I don’t think so. Was I yelling at my television a bunch and loving every minute of it? Yes.
Will Cilic stop Nadal? What about Ruud, or Holger Rune. Yea, I don’t see it either, but this is why we watch. Sportsss.