French Open: Djokovic looks forward to 'great battle' against rival Nadal

By Sports Desk June 09, 2021

Novak Djokovic did not try to play it cool after setting up a dream Roland Garros showdown with Rafael Nadal. 

The world number one defeated Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 Wednesday to secure a semi-final match-up with the 13-time French Open champion. 

Djokovic admitted his meetings with Nadal are "not like any other match" and said he expects a "great battle" Friday when the pair meet for the 58th time. 

"Let's face it, it's the biggest challenge that you can have playing on clay against Nadal on this court in which he has had so much success in his career," Djokovic told a press conference. "In the final stages of a grand slam, it doesn't get bigger than that.

"Of course, each time we face each other, there's that extra tension and expectations. Just vibes are different walking on the court with him.

"But that's why our rivalry has been historic I think for this sport. I've been privileged to play him so many times."

Djokovic holds a narrow edge against the man he called his biggest rival, with 29 victories to Nadal's 28, but the Spaniard has won the last two meetings -- including a straight-sets triumph in the French Open final last year. 

"Obviously different conditions are going to be played on Friday than it was the case in finals of last year, so I'm hopefully going to be able to also perform at the high level than I have, especially in the first two sets in the last year's final.

"The quality and the level of tennis that I've been playing in the last three, four weeks on clay -- Rome, Belgrade and here -- is giving me good sensations and feelings ahead of that match.

"I'm confident. I believe I can win, otherwise I wouldn't be here. Let's have a great battle."

Djokovic had to battle Wednesday to defeat the ninth-seeded Italian, letting loose a primal scream when he finally put the match away in the fourth set. 

The Serbian said the crowd was Davis Cup-like before fans were ushered out due to the local curfew. 

"The crowd lifted him up. He was playing some really powerful tennis," Djokovic said. 

"Especially in the third and fourth he served tremendously strong and precise. It was just very difficult to read his serve and play someone like him.

"He's very talented. He can play well from the back of the court. He's got a lethal forehand, dropshots. ... When he's on, it's tough to play him."

Related items

  • Martinez shocks Bautista Agut at Generali Open Martinez shocks Bautista Agut at Generali Open

    World number 16 Roberto Bautista Agut crashed out in the second round as the other favourites for the Generali Open battled through.

    Bautista Agut lost the first set to Spanish compatriot Pablo Martinez in Kitzbuhel, Austria, and could not complete a comeback despite forcing a decider as he lost 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 7-5.

    Top seed Casper Ruud, who won last week in Gstaad to claim his third ATP Tour crown of 2021 and fourth in total, came from 4-2 down in the first set to win 7-5 5-7 6-4 against Mario Vilella Martinez.

    Third seed Filip Krajinovic survived a second-set scare to beat Carlos Taberner 6-3 2-6 6-4.

    Arthur Rinderknech, who dispatched of fifth seed Federico Delbonis on Tuesday, awaits Krajinovic in the next round.

    The other clash on Wednesday saw Sweden's Mikael Ymer cruise past home favourite Alexander Erler 6-2 6-3 to secure a quarter-final berth.

    Ymer will now face the thankless task of challenging 22-year-old Ruud for a spot in the semi-finals.

  • Tokyo Olympics: Djokovic thankful for delayed start time in 'draining' conditions Tokyo Olympics: Djokovic thankful for delayed start time in 'draining' conditions

    Novak Djokovic has welcomed the International Tennis Federation's (ITF) decision to delay the start of matches until 3:00pm (local time) at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.

    The world number one has cruised through to the quarter-finals, where he will meet home favourite Kei Nishikori, but he – along with many others – had complained of heat and humidity causing problems due to contests starting too early.

    That decision has come after world number two Daniil Medvedev struggled with conditions as he was forced to use two medical timeouts on Wednesday to cope with the heat and subsequently asked chair umpire Carlos Ramos, per ESPN, "If I die, are you going to be responsible?"

    The pushback now means the majority of the games in the closing stages will be played in slightly cooler conditions in order to protect player welfare amid growing health concerns.

    Speaking after a 6-3 6-4 mixed doubles win with Nina Stojanovic against Brazil's Luisa Stefani and Marcelo Melo, the Serbian expressed gratitude for the ITF's decision, though he felt it should have come earlier.

    "It was nice news to receive," Djokovic said. "It's better than starting at 11:00am. It's not just in my opinion. I've spoken to six out of eight quarter-finalists in men's singles and everyone is in favour of starting later because the conditions are really brutal.

    "It's very good [news] because you don't want to see situations like what we saw today with Paula Badosa [who retired after the first set].

    "I've played tennis now professionally for 20 years, and I've never faced these kind of conditions in my entire life on a consecutive daily basis.

    "I did experience certain similar days, one day in Miami or New York, or sometimes it happens here and there, but it's one or two days, and then it passes. Here is every single day. So, it's really draining players' energy, and you just don't feel yourself."

    After gymnast Simone Biles' withdrawal to protect her mental health, Djokovic outlined the pressures that come with professional sport, too.

    "Pressure is a privilege, my friend. Without pressure, there is no professional sport," he continued.

    "If you are aiming to be at the top of the game, you better start learning how to deal with pressure and how to cope with those moments on the court, but also off the court.

    "I've developed the mechanism on how to deal with it in such a way that it will not pose a distraction to me. It will not wear me down. I feel I have enough experience to know myself how to step on the court and play my best tennis.”

    Djokovic, who was unsure if he had ever played in an "official" mixed doubles competition, and Stojanovic will now face Germany's Laura Siegemund and Kevin Krawietz in the quarter-final.

    Despite limited experience, the six-time Wimbledon winner enjoyed the outing and was surprised how quickly he and Stojanovic understood each other's games.

    "We did not chat about the tactics too much," the 34-year-old added. "We know each other, but we've never really played in the opposite ends of the net, or the same side of the net, so it was amazing how well we clicked from the beginning."

  • Tokyo Olympics: Medvedev loses his rag as Murray casts doubt over Games future Tokyo Olympics: Medvedev loses his rag as Murray casts doubt over Games future

    Daniil Medvedev did not take kindly to a question over the controversy surrounding Russian athletes at the Tokyo Olympics after he battled through sweltering conditions to reach the quarter-finals.

    Medvedev beat Italy's Fabio Fognini 6-2 3-6 6-2 on Wednesday in a match that was paused for 10 minutes due to on-court temperatures reaching 31 degrees Celsius, with humidity then adding to that.

    The world number two had to receive medical attention on two occasions before he prevailed to tee up a last-eight tie with Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain.

    Top seed Novak Djokovic continued his march towards the medal matches with a routine win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, though in the doubles, Andy Murray's hopes of winning a historic fourth Olympic prize were shattered.

     

    MEDVDEV'S TEMPER FRAYS IN THE HEAT

    It had already been a stressful day for Medvedev. The 25-year-old replied "I can finish the match but I can die. If I die, are you going to be responsible?" when asked by chair umpire Carlos Ramos whether he could carry on playing against Fognini following two medical timeouts. 

    Medvedev's temper then boiled over in the media mixed zone when he was questioned over the contentious nature of Russian athletes competing at the Games.

    The Russian flag is not represented in Tokyo due to sanctions against the country for state-sponsored doping offences. Russia is suspended from competing in global sporting events for two years – a ban that was reduced from an initial four-year punishment. Instead, athletes are competing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

    Medvedev was asked if he feels the Russian athletes are "carrying a stigma of cheaters".

    Seemingly misunderstanding the question, Medvedev hardly held back in his reaction, saying: "That's the first time in my life I’m not gonna answer a question, man. And you should be embarrassed of yourself."

    Before leaving the room, Medvedev subsequently told the press officer: "I think you should [remove] him from either the Olympic Games, either the tennis tournament. I don't wanna see him again in my interviews. Thanks."

    MURRAY'S PARIS PARTICIPATION IN DOUBT

    There was to be no fairytale title tilt for former world number one Murray. He won gold in the singles in London and Rio, and also managed a silver medal at the 2012 Games in the mixed doubles, but he and Joe Sailsbury suffered a defeat to Croatian pair Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig in the quarter-finals.

    The British pair won the first set but failed to make their advantage count, with Croatia's duo coming back to win 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 10-7.

    Murray will be 37 by the time the Paris Games come around, and as he continues to carefully manage his return from hip surgery, the Scot could well have made his Olympic farewell.

    "I don't know. I don't know if I'll get the opportunity to play [in the Olympics] again," he conceded.

    "I love every minute of playing the Olympics. I wish that today would have gone differently. I had another chance with Joe to win a medal. We were so close and that is just disappointing. There was some stuff I wish I could have done at the end of the match to try and help out more. But yeah, very disappointing."

    MIXED BAG FOR TSITSIPAS

    While Medvedev, Djokovic and Alexander Zverev all progressed into the last eight in the singles, there was no place for Stefanos Tsitsipas, whose hopes were ended by Ugo Humbert.

    The Greek world number four suffered a seemingly innocuous leg injury in the second set tie-break and failed to recover in the decider as Frenchman Humbert claimed the biggest win of his career.

    However, Tsitsipas was swiftly back on court to play in the mixed doubles alongside partner Maria Sakkari, and the duo claimed a comfortable 6-3 6-4 victory over Canada's Gabriela Dabrowski and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

    Asked after that win to discuss what went wrong in his earlier defeat, Tsitsipas replied: "I figured out a few things later during the match, like really, really late. 

    "I think if I've had the same mindset or the same attitude, same vision that I had towards the very end of the match, I think things would have gone much, much smoother and better for me. It's something that I learned."

    He also confirmed his injury was "nothing serious."

    DJOKOVIC ON A ROLL

    As expected, Djokovic is one win away from a shot at a medal in the singles, and he then followed up his victory over Davidovich Fokina by combining with Nina Stojanovic in the mixed doubles.

    The Serbian pair beat Marcelo Melo and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-3 6-4 in just 70 minutes to book their place in the next round.

    Djokovic will have the host nation against him in his next match, however, as he takes on Kei Nishikori, who is Japan's only hope of a singles medal after Naomi Osaka's exit.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.