French Open: Djokovic looks forward to 'great battle' against rival Nadal

By Sports Desk June 09, 2021

Novak Djokovic did not try to play it cool after setting up a dream Roland Garros showdown with Rafael Nadal. 

The world number one defeated Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 Wednesday to secure a semi-final match-up with the 13-time French Open champion. 

Djokovic admitted his meetings with Nadal are "not like any other match" and said he expects a "great battle" Friday when the pair meet for the 58th time. 

"Let's face it, it's the biggest challenge that you can have playing on clay against Nadal on this court in which he has had so much success in his career," Djokovic told a press conference. "In the final stages of a grand slam, it doesn't get bigger than that.

"Of course, each time we face each other, there's that extra tension and expectations. Just vibes are different walking on the court with him.

"But that's why our rivalry has been historic I think for this sport. I've been privileged to play him so many times."

Djokovic holds a narrow edge against the man he called his biggest rival, with 29 victories to Nadal's 28, but the Spaniard has won the last two meetings -- including a straight-sets triumph in the French Open final last year. 

"Obviously different conditions are going to be played on Friday than it was the case in finals of last year, so I'm hopefully going to be able to also perform at the high level than I have, especially in the first two sets in the last year's final.

"The quality and the level of tennis that I've been playing in the last three, four weeks on clay -- Rome, Belgrade and here -- is giving me good sensations and feelings ahead of that match.

"I'm confident. I believe I can win, otherwise I wouldn't be here. Let's have a great battle."

Djokovic had to battle Wednesday to defeat the ninth-seeded Italian, letting loose a primal scream when he finally put the match away in the fourth set. 

The Serbian said the crowd was Davis Cup-like before fans were ushered out due to the local curfew. 

"The crowd lifted him up. He was playing some really powerful tennis," Djokovic said. 

"Especially in the third and fourth he served tremendously strong and precise. It was just very difficult to read his serve and play someone like him.

"He's very talented. He can play well from the back of the court. He's got a lethal forehand, dropshots. ... When he's on, it's tough to play him."

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    In his first-round fixture against Yoshihito Nishioka, Djokovic won 55 per cent of the total points in the first set, and increased that number in the second and third.

    This time, however, it was Molcan who was slowly improving as the match wore on, as Djokovic won 70 per cent of the first-set points, 57 per cent in the second and 53 per cent as he was taken to a tie-breaker in the third.

    Speaking to the media after his win, the Serbian star said he feels in good touch, and gave credit to his "tricky opponent".

    "I'm pleased with the way I'm feeling on the court [and] the way I’ve been striking the ball," he said.

    "I think today was also under challenging conditions and playing against a specialist on clay, someone that is a tricky opponent and coming off from the [Lyon] final last week. 

    "It was never going to be an easy match, but I thought I performed very well."

    He went on to discuss how energising it is to have a full crowd after there was a limited capacity for his 2021 triumph.

    "It's great to see the crowd back [and] the full capacity on all courts," he said. "Lots of young people, lots of kids, this is something that I really love to see.

    "It always gives you energy. For me at this stage of my career, a crowd and this energy of people coming to watch me play is one of the biggest reasons why I keep on competing [and] playing professional tennis."

    Djokovic will play Slovakian Aljaz Bedene in the third round, and despite being aware of his collision course with Rafael Nadal set for the quarter-finals, he said looking ahead that far serves little purpose.

    "You are aware what's going on with the other guys, at least in my case, and I know that everyone else is watching everybody else," he said.

    "[But] that cannot be dominating most of your time and energy that you invest in a day. 

    "So you are aware, but then of course it's really not up to you what they do. It's what you have to do, win matches and make good results."

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    The sixth seed saved match point in the fourth set and rallied from 0-3 in the fifth set to complete a 6-1 6-7 (7-9) 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 success on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

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    "I enjoy the battles. I want to play big battles and tough battles against the best players in the world."

    Alcaraz was won four titles this year, including success at two ATP 1000 events, and feels at home playing on the show courts.

    "I'm still young, but I would say pretty experienced player now," said Alcaraz.

    "I feel comfortable playing in big stadiums, big matches, playing in grand slams. Physically. I'm strong. Mentally, I'm strong as well.

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  • French Open: Nadal brushes off Moutet to seal 300th grand slam match win French Open: Nadal brushes off Moutet to seal 300th grand slam match win

    Rafael Nadal recorded his 300th grand slam match win by easing into the third round of the French Open, beating Corentin Moutet in straight sets.

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    On this evidence, Nadal is in the form to re-establish his dominion of the tournament, overcoming a spirited home hope, who enjoyed the benefit of vocal support from the crowd on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Wednesday evening.

    Nadal will see room for improvement having failed to serve the match out in the third set, but a 6-3 6-1 6-4 win was never in doubt.

    The tone for a procession was established when Nadal raced into a 3-0 lead in the opening set, and Moutet's dream of playing his idol soon appeared to be turning into a nightmare.

    Nadal won the second set in commanding fashion behind an excellent first serve, but found Moutet's resistance more stern in the third.

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    Data Slam: Nadal 107-3 opponents

    As well as being his 300th grand slam match win, Nadal's triumph was his 107th at Roland Garros. He has still only tasted defeat in Paris three times. The fifth seed won all 11 of his first-serve points in the second set of another impressive display.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Nadal – 27/22
    Moutet – 16/24

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Nadal – 1/2
    Moutet – 0/3

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Nadal – 7/12
    Moutet – 2/4

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