If anyone was primed to beat Rafael Nadal at the French Open this year, it was Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic came into the final at Roland Garros with a four-match winning streak against Nadal, including winning the title in Rome last month on clay. But playing Nadal in Rome, or anywhere else, just doesn’t compare to playing Nadal at Roland Garros.
“Obviously, his records speak for themselves. He has won this tournament now nine times,” Djokovic said after losing to Nadal 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 in Sunday’s final. “It’s very impressive (when) he’s playing on this court.”
Nadal has lost only once at Roland Garros, and that came on Court Philippe Chatrier in the fourth round of the 2009 tournament. Since then, the top-ranked Spaniard has become the first man to win five straight titles at the clay-court major, and the first to win nine at a single major championship.
Two of those nine French Open titles have come with Djokovic on the other side of the net in the final, and both went four sets.
“He was a better player in the crucial moments,” said Djokovic, now 0-6 against Nadal at the French Open. “Of course, it’s disappointing for me, but life goes on. It’s not the first time or last time that I lost a match.”
Nadal and Djokovic played their first match against each other in the 2006 French Open quarterfinals. Nadal won the first two sets before Djokovic retired with a lower back injury.
Since then, Djokovic has gotten closer and closer to victory in Paris.
“It’s not impossible, but it’s very, very difficult to stay with Rafa in this court throughout the whole match on the highest level of performance,” said Djokovic, who has been coached by Boris Becker this season.