Rafael Nadal recalls: ‘I won crucial points against Novak Djokovic, although..’

The last year’s Roland Garros final clash between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic was one of the most important encounters of the 21st century, like the one they had on the same court this June. Nadal sought the 20th Major crown last fall, while Djokovic fought for the 18th, hoping to reduce the gap to Nadal and Federer after the US Open failure. Despite challenging conditions and a mighty opponent on the other side, Nadal was ready to extend his Parisian reign, overcoming all the issues and a roof above his head to score a dominant victory over a great rival. Rafa’s 13th Roland Garros title came following a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 triumph in two hours and 41 minutes, securing the 100th win in Paris from 102 matches and writing history books!

Nadal stated that he grabbed the pivotal points; otherwise, it could have been a different outcome, even in the opening two sets, considering the rival on the other side of the net. Rafa became the third-oldest Roland Garros winner at 34, securing his fourth Major crown without losing a set and joining Federer on 20 Major titles. Nadal hit 31 winners and 14 unforced errors against Djokovic, controlling his strokes and stealing 51% of the return points to grab seven breaks from 18 opportunities. Novak could not find his A-game for over two hours, spraying 50 unforced errors and failing to match Rafa’s pace in the opening two sets.

Rafael Nadal knew he had to deliver his best against Novak Djokovic in Paris.

Rafa had the upper hand in the shortest range up to four strokes, earning his victory in that segment as they stayed close to each other in the more advanced exchanges. Delivering his best tennis right from the start, Nadal grabbed a break in the encounter’s first game when Djokovic’s backhand landed long. The Spaniard seized another break at 2-0 to increase the lead after 20 minutes and painted a backhand crosscourt winner at 4-0 to extend the gap. Rafa held at 15 in game six to wrap up the opener with a bagel, still needing 41 minutes to achieve that. The defending champion earned two breaks in set number two and held at 30 in game eight with a service winner to forge a 6-0, 6-2 advantage in an hour and 34 minutes and move closer to the finish line. The rivals stayed neck and neck until 5-5 in the third after trading breaks in the middle of the set before Novak hit a double fault in that 11th game to lose serve and propel Rafa towards the title.

“Against Novak, I stepped on the court convinced I could play at my 100%. The scoreboard was one-sided, but there were crucial moments that could have changed everything, even in the opening two sets,” Rafael Nadal said.

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