The 59th Legend Duel was intense from the start and at the highest level. After 25 minutes of play, the score was only 2-1 from Nadal’s point of view.
He was also the record champion who had the best arguments at Philippe Chatrier’s court.
Breaking to 1:0, slightly better serve, more winners (12:8) and fewer non-force fouls (6:9) made Nadal a well-deserved lead of the group.
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Nadal started smoothly from where he left off. The 35-year-old managed a double break at the start of the second set and won 3-0.
Misha Zverev: “There is something wrong with Nadal”
Initial decision? not at all. Djokovic suddenly returned to the group and played three games in a row.
Misha Zverev, who accompanied the match as a TV expert at Eurosport, wondered, “Something is wrong with Rafa. He tries to hit the winner with a forehand and does not stand right with the ball. The same applies to the long line on backhands.”
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When Djokovic made it 4:3, the second set was already at 64 minutes old. “Novak is moving like a machine now. He’s always the same, he’s always good at handling the ball,” Zverev praised.
As a result, the game took another turn. Nadal managed to break the first inning with a score of 1–0, and in the fifth inning he took the serve match from the defending champions again and shortly thereafter made his match 6-2.
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Then Djokovic succeeded in the fourth set, which he had not succeeded in before. The Serbian brought on his first service match and also directly won his opponent’s first service match. Until the score of 5:3, the Joker ran his serve relatively easily, but then Nadal forced him again by making his debut.
The sound got louder in the stands, the tension was almost palpable – Nadal battled for his first break of the set with a powerful backhand and a forehand win later. Djokovic kept his cool and defended, but suffered another fracture after a back foul.
“There are stages in which one can better read the other,” said Misha Zverev. “And now this is Rafa!” The Eurosport expert guessed what should happen after 46 minutes in a sentence. Nadal broke to 4:5 and tied shortly thereafter to 5:5 – the group went into the tiebreak, with both players having an identical balance this year: 9:2.
Match ball: Nadal makes victory clear with a powerful backhand
Final showdown in the tiebreak
Nadal started the tiebreak with the first half and then served both to make the score 3-0. Djokovic then took advantage of a backhand from the Spaniard that was a few centimeters too long, but soon afterward put a ball behind the baseline himself. The right to serve was changed to Nadal when the score was 4-1.
Mallorquin once again took advantage of two errors made by his opponent and got five match points when the score was 6: 1. Djokovic saved the first three, but on the fourth attempt it was time. After 4:11, Nadal raised his arms in relief and made it clear again that he was rightfully called the King of the Clay Court.
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“Playing against Novak is a big task,” Nadal said on the court. “He is one of the best players in the history of our sport. There is only one way to win against him: you have to push yourself to your limits.” Interview and thanks to viewers in French.
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