Playing Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is unlike any challenge in sports. The Spaniard is as comfortable on Court Philippe-Chatrier as Michael Phelps is swimming in a pool. So dominant is the legendary lefty on the Parisian terre battue that winning a set against him has been a major accomplishment.
When Nadal lost a set against Top 10 stalwart Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals, that snapped the 13-time champion’s 36-set winning streak at Roland Garros. On most occasions,
Nadal doesn’t just win at the clay-court major; he dominates opponents. Any time a foe dares take a set, he overwhelms them with a tsunami-like wave of unrelenting offence and seemingly impenetrable defence to completely shift the momentum and drown a player’s hopes.
That has helped Nadal win 23 6-0 sets in Paris. That is why he is a jaw-dropping 105-2 at this tournament. But on Friday, one of the two men who has defeated the 35-year-old, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, will step up to face the ultimate challenge in sports once again.
“I’m confident,” Djokovic said. “I believe I can win, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”You May Also Like: Preview: Will Tsitsipas Or Zverev Break New Ground In Paris?
As they are at every tournament at this stage of their careers, Djokovic and Nadal are chasing history this fortnight. Nadal can move ahead of Roger Federer on the all-time Grand Slam titles list by earning his 21st major crown.
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Djokovic can claw closer to Federer and Nadal with his 19th and become the first man in the Open Era to win all four majors twice. The winner of this semi-final will be the favourite in the championship match against Stefanos Tsitsipas or Alexander Zverev.
This is a familiar hurdle for Djokovic, who likely would have lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires several times if not for the Spaniard. With a victory on Friday, the top seed will reach his sixth Roland Garros final, which would tie him for second all-time with Bjorn Borg.
But the 18-time Grand Slam champion knows how tough it will be to defeat Nadal. This will be their record 58th ATP Head2Head meeting, and their ninth clash at the clay-court major. Djokovic leads their epic rivalry 29-28, but trails at this event 1-7