Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal: Recapping an incredible rivalry

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Tennis has been blessed with some great rivalries down the years – Bjorn Borg v John McEnroe, and Pete Sampras v Andre Agassi to name just a few. But none have encapsulated the imagination and the attention of the fans in the way that Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have.

Djokovic and Nadal are indisputably two of the best players to ever wield a racquet. When it comes to the bet exchange, the duo are always trading with low odds for the Grand Slams, and Masters 1000 events. The two have already met 58 times on the ATP circuit, and virtually every contest has been gladiatorial in its nature.

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We have unlocked the vault, and will recap on some of our favourite clashes between Djokovic and Nadal. Read on to find out more.

2012: Australian Open Final

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(Djokovic d. Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7),  7-5)

What better place to start than the Australian Open final? Deemed the greatest Grand Slam final of all time, the two great rivals traded blows in an epic encounter that fell just short of six hours.

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After trailing 2-4 in the decider, Djokovic pulled himself off the canvas to claim an astonishing victory, and it was the third Grand Slam final in a row that the World No.1 had prevailed against his Spanish counterpart.

Both players were struggling to stand up during the presentation ceremony, and it capped off a stunning 12 months for Djokovic, who had won three of the four Grand Slam titles in 2011 to halt the Nadal-Roger Federer duopoly.

2014: Italian Open Final

(Djokovic d. Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-3)

Although Nadal entered his 41st encounter at the Italian Open final somewhat overcooked, the seven-time champion surged to a double break in the first set, displaying no signs of fatigue as he clinched the first set in 46 minutes.

But Djokovic turned the tables, and he produced a fabulous attacking display. He conjured up 46 winners – which included 15 winners on the backhand side – and it proved too much for Nadal in the end.

It was also Djokovic’s second victory over his rival in an Italian Open title match, having previously beaten Nadal three years earlier.

2018: Wimbledon Semi-Final

(Djokovic d. Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (11-9), 3-6, 10-8

At Wimbledon, it was clear that Djokovic was far approaching his best form after sitting out the second half of the 2017 campaign due to elbow surgery. Yet he overcame an enormous challenge from Nadal at Wimbledon, whose record had stood at 35-2 at that point in the season.

The two were evenly matched, and Djokovic displayed great tenacity to stave off five break points in the fifth set before triumphing after five hours and 15 minutes on court.

Tellingly, both players hit 73 winners with just 42 unforced errors conceded in this absorbing contest.

2021: French Open Semi-Final

(Djokovic d. Nadal 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2)

It was always going to take an incredible effort from Djokovic to topple the “King of Clay” on the red dirt at Roland-Garros. And the World No.1 duly delivered inside the Court Philippe-Chatrier, creating an electrifying atmosphere in the process.

The first set didn’t bode too well for Djokovic, as he found himself 0-5 down, but he didn’t hit the panic button. Instead, he found a way to get into the match by playing methodical tennis, and counteracting Nadal’s huge forehand.

Although Nadal made a push to force through a decider by opening up a 2-0 lead, the 13-time champion was derailed by Djokovic. The Serbian rattled off six games in a row to advance to the final and move 30-28 up in their head-to-head record.

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