In one of the most anticipated matches in French Open history and perhaps the most eagerly awaited Grand Slam quarterfinal of the Open Era, nine-time champion Rafael Nadal faces world No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Wednesday. Djokovic has been the man in form, winning 26 matches coming into the contest, while Nadal has failed to win a single title during the clay-court European swing for the first-time ever heading into the French Open. Yet Nadal has a remarkable 70-1 record at Roland Garros, with his only defeat coming to Robin Soderling in 2009. And Nadal has denied Djokovic the chance to complete his career Grand Slam with a first title in Paris in the each of the last three years.
Here’s how the match is playing out:
First set: It was Djokovic who started on fire, dictating play to win the first four games with two breaks of serve. But Nadal slowly began to show some of his familiar grit, extending the points and pulling back to 4-4. There were some marathon points between the two players that have met more times than any other pair in history, with both showing their incredible retrieving ability. But it was Djokovic pressing to win the set, finally taking it 7-5 on his sixth set point after one hour and nine minutes.
Second set: The second set went with serve early, while Djokovic slipped on multiple occasions to bring complaints from the Serbian that the court wasn’t watered in between the sets. Again, though, it was Djokovic who dealt the decisive blow. Serving at 3-4, Nadal missed a succession of forehands with the final one sent wide to give Djokovic a break. Again Nadal clung on, saving three set points, but Djokovic brought up the fourth with a sensational low backhand volley and made no mistake with a shot into the corner to take the second set 6-3.
Third Set: Djokovic is now speeding to victory against the greatest clay-court player in history. Nadal may not be throwing in the towel, but he is clearly demoralized. After saving two break points in the opening game, the Spaniard shanks a volley wide to give Djokovic a major boost at the start of the third set. And it gets worse for Nadal on what is his 29th birthday when he starts off with a double fault and then Djokovic gets the advantage of a net cord to take a double-break for a 3-0 lead.Nadal temporarily stopped the damage to hold at 4-1, but there was no stopping Djokovic. With Nadal serving to stay in the match trailing 5-1 he fell to 0-40 to and handed his rival the win with a double fault. Djokovic becomes just the second man ever to beat Nadal at the French Open and moves into the semifinals. Nadal’s dominance at Roland Garros is at an end as his miserable 2015 continues.