Rafael Nadal beating David Goffin yesterday meant that a mouthwatering clash was on the cards. The Nadal –Djokovic rivalry was live again and there could not have been a better set-up. It was a battle of records vs recent form, establishing dominance vs being back with a bang. Yes, a lot was on the cards as the King of Clay took on the World No. 2 Serb, much more than a place in the Madrid Finals at stake.
The records said that the head to head score was 26-23 in favour of Djokovic with the 12-time Grand Slam champion winning their last seven encounters, more incredibly not dropping any of the last 15 sets. Yet, the way Nadal was playing on clay court this year, it seemed as if he was in no mood to end his 13 match winning streak anytime soon. In stark contrast, Djokovic, recently had been little more than the shadow of his former self, the champion player the world had seen.
This was the first semi final berth he had secured since Qatar Open that too after a walkover from Nishikori in the previous round. He was a player desperate to regain lost form, having gone so far as to fire his entire team of support staff in a bid to return to winning ways. This was his chance of shutting all his critics up, to remove all doubts seeded in people’s minds. Rafael Nadal, on the other hand, was facing a top two player for the first time since his unbelievable return from injury. A win would complete the comeback in more ways than one, would make him the ultimate legend of the red dirt. The Madrid semi-final was not only a pathway to the finals, it was much, much more.
And so when Nadal broke to love in the very first game of his 50th meeting with Djokovic, the winner of most of the battles was pretty much decided. As Nadal broke again to go 4-0 up before closing out the first 6-2 even as Djokovic struggled to find an answer to the Spaniard’s booming forehand the 15 set winning streak was ended. The big serving Serb was broken once more in the opening game of the second set before he dug deep into his skill set to level at 2 games all. Rafael Nadal, however was a man on a mission. Ruthless as he has been these last few weeks, he immediately broke back and completed the demolition of the second seed .
This win breaks Nadal’s seven match losing streak against Djokovic and props him as the clear favourite to lift the trophy at Roland Garros. At this point of time there appears to be none capable of denying him a record 10th French Open title. Novak Djokovic’s woes continue, however, as his Grand Slam preparations do not seem to be getting on track, try as he might. Today as the Spaniard rallies against Dominic Thiem for a fifth Madrid title, the world will see and admire the class of the legend, the dedication of the legend, the determination of the legend.