The biggest rivalry in men’s tennis will write another chapter on Wednesday afternoon, as nine-time champion Rafael Nadal and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic meet for a unprecedented 44nd time on the professional tour. The Nadal vs Djokovic Head to Head stands at 23-20, but has lost the most recent match against Djokovic at Monte Carlo Masters event. The two players have already surpassed John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl and will likely continue to add to their rivalry’s ever-growing legacy, yet the stakes are high at the French Open, as Nadal attempts to close in on his 10th title at Roland Garros, while Djokovic will get one step closer to completing his career Grand Slam.
Djokovic’s fourth round match against Richard Gasquet ended in straight sets to hand the Serb his 26th victory of the season. Djokovic struck 47 winners and saved eight break points faced on serve to close out the match 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in just under two hours.
“Of course it is a different approach mentally when you play Nadal in quarter-finals than any other player,” said the Serb. “There is no doubt about that. I’m going to try to keep my routine the same and not give so much importance to the match.
“I know what I need to do to have a chance to win. That doesn’t mean that I will win. The future is unpredictable.”
Rafael Nadal looked as though he was about to cruise into yet another French Open quarter-final but faced some resistance from Jack Sock when he attempted to serve out the match. From there, he had his serve broken and was forced to contest a fourth set before securing the 6-3, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 win. He will now go on to face Djokovic in the final eight of the tournament.
“It is not the final, you know,” said Nadal, who will turn 29 on Wednesday. “It’s a quarter-final. And, no, the winner of that match will not be the Roland Garros champion.
“They will be a semi-finalist of Roland Garros. That makes a big difference. Even if it’s a special match, it’s a quarter-final match.”
Following their three meetings last year and one meeting so far this season, Nadal leads Djokovic 23-20 in the head-to-head series. Rafa is 14-5 against Djokovic on clay but the gap has closed to 5-5 on that surface since 2011, which certainly evens out Djokovic’s chances on Wednesday afternoon. Given that he has a proven track record against Nadal at clay court Masters 1000 events, Djokovic will now need to find the confidence in himself to complete a historic upset of Nadal at Roland Garros.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic in Five Sets