So that is that: a much briefer game than many will have expected, but with an unsurprising result given the respective form of the two players. This is Djokovic’s first win over Nadal at the French Open. He will go on to face the winner of the match currently taking place on Suzanne Lenglen, where Andy Murray leads David Ferrer by two sets to nil. In the other half of the draw, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will face Stan Wawrinka. The men will play on Friday; with the women’s semi-finals to take place on Philippe Chatrier tomorrow.
Djokovic vs. Nadal lasted less than two and a half hours. While both men hit the same number of aces, and shared a similar first serve percentage (63% to 60%), Djokovic won much more often on both his first and second serve (76% to 59%; 60% to 38%); struck 45 winners compared to Nadal’s 16; and also impressed coming into the net, winning 25 of his points across 36 visits. Both men made 30 unforced errors; but in general Djokovic was able to put more pressure on Nadal, and force him into mistakes. Nadal’s forehand in particular stuttered throughout the match, too often looping short. After working so hard to get back into the first set from 4-0 down, he let the second set slip away from 3-3 and could do nothing to halt the tide in the third.
Djokovic will be the strong favourite looking ahead to the rest of the tournament, hoping to add the French Open to his collection and thereby complete a Career Grand Slam.
17:13 – Nadal makes two errors, the second looping high into the sky and – wait for it – eventually landing out. Then Djokovic punishes him with a forehand winner for three match points. Alas, a double fault and he has the victory. Djokovic 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 Nadal.
17:10 – Characteristically, Nadal is trying to dig in; but the mobility isn’t there and Djokovic continues to force the issue and hit winners. He holds to love and stands a game away from the semi-finals. Djokovic 7-5, 6-3, 5-1 Nadal*
17:06 – Nadal comes from behind to hold and take his first game of this third set. *Djokovic 7-5, 6-3, 4-1 Nadal.
17:02 – Djokovic’s first serve win percentage tore ahead of Nadal’s towards the end of the second set, and he continues to look pretty secure on his serve. Another clever touch at the net gives him 30-0. Nadal takes the next couple of points; but a net cord hands Djokovic the game. Djokovic 7-5, 6-3, 4-0 Nadal*.
16:57 – The first double fault of the match opens the game, and then two winners from Djokovic’s forehand give him three break points. Nadal pulls it back to 30-40, but another forehand winner puts Djokovic into what would seem an unassailable lead. *Djokovic 7-5, 6-3, 3-0 Nadal.
16:53 – From 40-0 to 40-30, but Djokovic comes through to hold. Djokovic 7-5, 6-3, 2-0 Nadal*.
16:48 – Nadal really let that second set slip away from him, and now Djokovic breaks in the first game of the third set. Nadal volleys into the net at advantage Djokovic. *Djokovic 7-5, 6-3, 1-0 Nadal.
16:41 – While Djokovic hit more than double the winners but also more errors in the first set, Nadal has ramped up the unforced errors over the past couple of games. He errs twice to give Djokovic two set points. But now Djokovic tenses up, and we arrive at deuce. He lets another set point go; then comes in on a second serve, and shows wonderful hands to flick a low return over the net. He makes the most of his fourth opportunity, moving into a two-set lead. Djokovic 7-5, 6-3 Nadal*.
Meanwhile on Suzanne Lenglen, Andy Murray has taken the first set by virtue of a tie-break.
16:34 – After a well constructed rally, culminating in a backhand smash, puts Nadal 30-15 up, he loses the next two points, hitting a forehand wide down the line to give Djokovic his first break point of the set. Deuce; advantage Nadal; deuce; and Nadal goes just wide to give advantage Djokovic. With Djokovic getting an excellent depth on his shots, Nadal finally goes wide and long and Djokovic breaks. Djokovic *7-5, 5-3 Nadal.
16:25 – Yet another comfortable hold to love for Djokovic. Djokovic 7-5, 4-3 Nadal*.
16:22 – Nadal recovers from 15-30 to hold. While there have been fewer aces in this second set, and both men are achieving a lower first serve percentage, they are staying at the back of the court and dominating on their serve. Their second serve win percentages this set are markedly higher. *Djokovic 7-5, 3-3 Nadal.
16:16 – Now Djokovic holds to love. Far from a break point, there hasn’t even been a deuce so far in this second set which, aside from the slippages, is progressing serenely. Djokovic 7-5, 3-2 Nadal*.
16:13 – Nadal holds to love. And we have new balls. *Djokovic 7-5, 2-2 Nadal
Djokovic complained to the chair umpire at the last changeover regarding the dryness of the clay court: it wasn’t watered between the first and second set, and the players are increasingly slipping and sliding about.
16:08 – A loose backhand at 40-15 from Nadal, and Djokovic holds. Djokovic 7-5, 2-1 Nadal*.
16:04 – Despite an excellent reach at the net from Djokovic to win the point at 40-15, a powerful forehand winner gives Nadal the game. *Djokovic 7-5, 1-1 Nadal.
16:00 – Djokovic holds in the first game of the second set, courtesy of a backhand winner. Djokovic 7-5, 1-0 Nadal*.
15:54 – At 30-15, Nadal misses an eminently makeable smash, and when Djokovic takes the next point, he faces his fourth for the first set. Nadal saves himself, nailing a harder smash from a deeper position. Djokovic earns and then passes up yet another set point; but Nadal finally hits wide and Djokovic has the first set in 67 minutes. *Djokovic 7-5 Nadal.
15:45 – A relatively straightforward hold for Djokovic. Djokovic 6-5 Nadal*.
15:42 – With Djokovic increasingly going cross court, and the rallies now much more competitive than they were at the start of the set, Djokovic earns a set point. Nadal comes back; but after another long rally, with Djokovic reacting well to a high ball on the baseline and pulling and pushing Nadal all over the court with drop shots and lobs, Djokovic has another point for the set. Nadal recovers again, only for the umpire to issue him with a time violation at deuce. A third set-point for Djokovic; but Nadal ultimately holds. *Djokovic 5-5 Nadal.
15:28 – Now Djokovic holds his serve to love, finishing the game with an inside-out forehand. Djokovic 5-4 Nadal*.
15:25 – Nadal holds to love, with Djokovic struggling to get anything on his serve. *Djokovic 4-4 Nadal.
15:21 – A remarkable turnaround given the first four games. With Djokovic testing Nadal’s backhand now, a few wayward shots give Nadal two break points. Djokovic volleys to save the first, and then the second; and then has to save a third as Nadal gains the advantage. But at the fourth time of asking, Nadal breaks. We are back on serve. Djokovic 4-3 Nadal*.
Andy Murray vs. David Ferrer is set to commence on Suzanne Lenglen.
15:13 – Nadal is getting more pace and kick on his forehand, and more depth too. He holds his serve comfortably, and for the first time this match. *Djokovic 4-2 Nadal.
Meanwhile over on Suzanne Lenglen, Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky has just won 6-4, 7-5 against Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium. The semi-final draw for the women is complete, with Serena Williams facing Bacsinszky, and Ana Ivanovic to meet Lucie Safarova.
15:07 – Much better from Nadal, who takes a 0-30 lead. Djokovic takes the next two points, but a passing shot as Djokovic moves in to the net gives Nadal his first break point, which he successfully takes. That’s one break back for Nadal. Djokovic 4-1 Nadal*.
15:03 – Nadal, struggling with his movement and mistiming his shots from the back of the court, gives Djokovic three break points. He gets it back to 15-40; but after an excellent rally, full of drop shots and lobs, Djokovic prevails and breaks again. *Djokovic 4-0 Nadal.
14:57 – Djokovic holds, with Nadal managing a couple of points but his forehand still faltering. Djokovic 3-0 Nadal*.
14:53 – Djokovic breaks. Nadal’s forehand has been the cause of some concern throughout the tournament so far, and with his forehand looping only to the half-court, Djokovic dominates the game from the baseline. *Djokovic 2-0 Nadal.
14:49 – Djokovic holds serve to love in the opening game, dropping the ball short at the net and just beyond Nadal’s powers of recovery, before finishing off with an ace. Djokovic 1-0 Nadal*.
– Today’s match will take place on the Philippe Chatrier court, following yesterday’s drama during the encounter between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Kei Nishikori. Play was paused for more than half an hour towards the end of the second set, after a section of the stadium’s scoreboard fell in the wind. One spectator was taken to hospital with an injury to his wrist. Earlier on the court today, Serena Williams progressed to the semi-finals of the women’s draw with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Sara Errani.
Djokovic and Nadal have completed their warm-up, and are ready to begin with Djokovic on serve. (* Indicates next to serve).
– Welcome to today’s 2015 French Open quarter-final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Djokovic arrives at this stage of the tournament after victories over Jarkko Nieminen, Gilles Muller, Thanasi Kokkinakis, and Richard Gasquet, which have seen him fail to drop a single set. More, Djokovic is yet to be challenged at this French Open in a tie-break. Achieving the same over the first three rounds against Quentin Halys, Nicolas Almagro, and Andrey Kuznetsov, Nadal lost the third set of his fourth-round match against 22-year-old American Jack Sock, before finishing the match off in the fourth set.
Djokovic is now on 26-match winning streak; he hasn’t lost on clay all year; and he is unbeaten in a Grand Slam or Masters event since last October in Shanghai. Djokovic beat Andy Murray in February to take his fifth Australian Open title, and his eighth Grand Slam in total. He followed this up with triumphs at Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, and Rome.
On the other hand Nadal has won just one title in the past twelve months, since defeating Djokovic in the final of last year’s French Open: he emerged victorious at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires at the beginning of March. A string of injuries brought a premature end to his season in 2014. This year he has struggled across the European clay court season, falling to Djokovic in Monte Carlo, Fabio Fognini in Barcelona, Andy Murray in the final in Madrid, and Stan Wawrinka in Rome. This is why Djokovic and Nadal are meeting so early in this year’s French Open: with Nadal having fallen to seventh in the world rankings, the French Open organisers stuck firmly to tradition and seeded Nadal only sixth.
Yet Nadal is a nine-time French Open champion, with a 70-1 record at the tournament. Djokovic and Nadal have met more times than any other two players in the Open Era: 43 times in total, with Nadal holding a slender 23-20 advantage. On clay, Nadal holds a more significant 14-5 lead. Given their respective form however, Nadal’s injury troubles over the past few years, and Djokovic’s success in Monte Carlo, Djokovic heads into today’s match as the slight favourite.