TennisSection previews the 2021 French Open as Novak Djokovic (1) meets Rafael Nadal (3) in the Semi-finals on Friday, June 11th 2021.
Which of these two all-time greats will it be to win this match in their 58th match? Will it be a 14th Roland Garros Final for Rafael Nadal as he continues to create history in his hopes to win his 14th title here in Paris as well as his 21st Grand Slam title? Will Novak Djokovic come in here with the great tennis he has been playing all tournament and hope to spoil the Spaniard’s run before he even gets to the Final, giving himself a great chance of being the title favourite and potentially be the only player to have won every Grand Slam title twice? Both players have played extremely well all tournament and we usually see them facing each other in Grand Slam Finals instead of Semi-finals, but only one will be able to make their way to the Final here. Who will it be?
Rafael Nadal played an incredible match in the Quarter-finals of the 2021 French Open, beating Diego Schwartzman in 4 sets 6-3/4-6/6-4/6-0. Those first 3 sets were probably the tightest sets of tennis we have seen all tournament in terms of shot making, with both Rafael Nadal and Diego Schwartzman just hitting incredible shots which would land right on the line, and neither of them was budging on their game plan. Diego was able to snap Rafael Nadal’s streak of 37 consecutive sets won here at Roland Garros, but once he did that, Nadal raised his level and was able to win the match in extremely dominant fashion. This win from Nadal sent a message to everyone in Paris, as he had such incredible competition, but still dominated and was able to raise his level even more. Can he raise his level even more now that he meets Novak Djokovic?
Novak Djokovic fined tuned all aspects of his game in his Quarter-final match against the Italian, Matteo Berrettini, beating him in 4 sets 6-3/6-2/6-7/7-5. The match was very tight all throughout, with Novak having to save a lot of break points and also consistently holding his serve at 30 or 40 rather than 0 or 15 like we are used to. However, this was a good performance nonetheless as Novak Djokovic showed great composure during tight points and he was reading most of Berrettini’s shots before they even left his racquet. Novak will be happy with that, but I am sure he also saw how Rafael Nadal played amazing tennis in his Quarter-final here at Roland Garros, therefore he will have to be even better than he was against Berrettini.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have met 57 times, with Novak Djokovic leading the head to head 29-28. This has been the closest and best rivalry in tennis history. They last met a few weeks ago in the Final of Rome where Nadal won in 3 sets 7-5/1-6/6-3. This was a good match for both players to gain a feel for each others game. We also have to remind ourselves of their meeting here at Roland Garros last year in the Final, where Nadal destroyed Novak in straight sets 6-0/6-2/7-5. Rafael Nadal was playing in conditions which we wouldn’t usually associate with him being able to play his best tennis (humid, cloudy, and cold), and he was still able to dominate.
After watching their Quarter-final matches, I have to say that I see Rafael Nadal dominating this match again. Djokovic is good, but the way Schwartzman returned against Nadal was as good as it gets here at the 2021 French Open, and I don’t see even Djokovic being able to be that consistent against Rafael Nadal on clay. Novak was struggling to hold serve in many games against Berrettini, even with many free points, and with Rafa on the other side of the court he will struggle more as Nadal will make him pay for cheap errors. We have to go all the way back to 2016 for the last time Novak beat Nadal on clay, with Nadal having won their last 5 clay encounters, whilst only losing 2 sets in those matches to Novak. Djokovic might be able to get 1 set under his belt here, but that’s it.
With the way Novak struggled the longer the match went against Matteo, and the way he had was throwing a tantrum in the 4th set towards the end, I expect for Nadal to have the upper hand. Nadal is a much tougher player than Matteo, and he has a lot more stamina, therefore Novak is going to not be able to hang in there if the going gets tough as he proved against much less good opponents. Nadal will win and make his way to his 14th Roland Garros Final in search for his 14th Roland Garros Title whilst also levelling his head to head against Novak at 29-29.
Free Tennis Pick and Prediction: Rafael Nadal to Win.