Chapter 58 Of ‘Historic Rivalry’ For Djokovic, Nadal At French Open

Spain’s Rafael Nadal (R) greets Serbia’s Novak Djokovic after defeating him in the final of the Men’s Italian Tennis Open at Foro Italico on May 16, 2021 in Rome, Italy.
Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

 

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal clash for the 58th time in their “historic rivalry” on Friday on the same court where they first met 15 years ago with a place in the French Open final at stake.

It is tennis’s greatest modern match-up between two men who have harvested 38 Grand Slam titles and 72 Masters between them.

Djokovic has spent more weeks at world number one than any other player while 13-time French Open winner Nadal has not been out of the top 10 in 16 years.

Nadal will start Friday’s semi-final as favourite, buoyed by his record of 105 wins and just two losses in his Roland Garros career.

The 35-year-old also has the edge over Djokovic on clay with a 19-7 career lead and 7-1 in Paris.

Djokovic hasn’t beaten Nadal on the surface since Rome in 2016.

He can, however, boast being one of only two men to have defeated Nadal in Paris, in the quarter-finals in 2015.

“It’s a well-anticipated semi-final and here we are,” said Djokovic of a rivalry which started on Court Philippe Chatrier in 2006.

“We had some battles over the years on this court.”

Nadal defeated 2016 champion Djokovic in straight sets in last year’s final, the Serb’s third loss in the championship match in Paris to the Spaniard.

There is plenty at stake on Friday as the two rivals close in on Sunday’s final.

Djokovic can win a 19th Slam and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 — and only the third in history — to win all four Slams twice.

Victory for Nadal would give him a record-setting 21st major, breaking a tie with Roger Federer.

“The vibes are different walking on the court with him,” added Djokovic, who is in his 40th Grand Slam semi-final. “But that’s why our rivalry has been historic.”

It’s been a topsy-turvy tournament for Djokovic.

After racing through the first three rounds, he had to come back from two sets down to defeat Italian 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti.

In the quarter-finals, he dropped the third set against Matteo Berrettini.

With the exception of a second-set blip in the quarter-finals against Diego Schwartzman, Nadal has reached his 14th semi-final relatively unscathed.

But despite his clay court stranglehold on Djokovic, Nadal isn’t getting too far ahead of himself.

– ‘Ego tells me more’ –
“It is a semi-final, not a final. That’s a big difference,” said the Spanish star who could become the oldest man to make the final in Paris.

The latest chapter of Djokovic v Nadal has overshadowed Friday’s other semi-final between Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany.

They have met seven times but just once on clay in Madrid in 2019 when Tsitsipas triumphed.

The 22-year-old Tsitsipas is in his third successive semi-final at the Slams and took Djokovic to five sets in the last four at Roland Garros in 2020.

He arrived in Paris with clay court titles this year in Monte Carlo and Lyon and had a match point to beat Nadal in the Barcelona final.

“I feel privileged that I’m in this position (of reaching three Slam semis). I’ve put in a lot of daily hard work and that has been a key element of me being here,” said Tsitsipas.

“But you know, my ego tells me I want more.”

Zverev is in his first semi-final at Roland Garros having almost fallen at the first hurdle against 152nd-ranked compatriot Oscar Otte.

“It’s nice that I didn’t play Rafa or Novak in the quarter-finals,” admitted Zverev.

“I think playing Rafa here in the finals, for example, is even worse. It’s even more difficult. But I also got to get there first.”

Whoever makes it to Sunday’s final will have their work cut out.

Tsitsipas is 2-7 against Nadal and 2-5 playing Djokovic.

Zverev is 3-6 when taking on Nadal and 2-6 facing Djokovic.

Djokovic Battles To Victory As He Warms Up For French Open

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 07, 2006 Serbia Montenegro’s Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Spain’s Rafael Nadal during the quarter-finals of the French tennis Open at Roland Garros in Paris. . (Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP)

 

 

Novak Djokovic edged to a straight-sets win over German lucky loser Mats Moraing on Tuesday in his opener in Belgrade where the world number one is warming up for the French Open.

The clay-court Grand Slam starts in Paris on Sunday, and Djokovic opted for extra match practice on home soil this week.

The 34-year-old was made to fight by the world number 253, winning 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) in an hour and 40 minutes.

It was Djokovic’s first match since losing the Italian Open final to Rafael Nadal nine days ago.

Spaniard Nadal will be the favourite to win a 14th French Open crown next month, although Djokovic will be chasing a 19th Grand Slam title to move within one of Nadal and Federer on the all-time men’s list.

The Serbian star was in strong form in the opening set on Tuesday, but was broken twice by Moraing in the second before clinching the win in a tie-break.

“I was twice a break up in the second set so I maybe could have finished out the job earlier, but credit to him for fighting, for playing really well, for playing very courageous, very bold tennis,” Djokovic said.

“I felt pretty nervous from the start,” said Djokovic. “I had an opponent that doesn’t have much experience, but he played like he spent 10 years playing at top level.

“The second set was exhausting, I’m mentally spent. I have a day to recover and move on to the next match.”

He will next face Argentinian Federico Coria, the younger brother of former Roland Garros runner-up Guillermo Coria, in the quarter-finals.

Nadal, Djokovic Eye History At Roland Garros

Spain’s Rafael Nadal (R) greets Serbia’s Novak Djokovic after defeating him in the final of the Men’s Italian Tennis Open at Foro Italico on May 16, 2021 in Rome, Italy.
Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will set their sights on more Grand Slam history at Roland Garros as the French Open embraces a new and eerily empty era of nighttime tennis.

A 14th title in Paris for Nadal would take him to a record-setting 21st major, surpassing the mark he shares with Roger Federer who has already written off his hopes of adding to his lone success in the French capital back in 2009.

Djokovic, the champion in 2016, can move to 19 Grand Slam titles with victory.

That would make the world number one the first man in over half a century to win all four majors on multiple occasions.

Nadal arrives in Paris buoyed by having defeated Djokovic in the Rome Masters final in what was the pair’s 57th meeting.

It was Nadal’s 10th title in the Italian capital.

Not that he was reading too much into the statistics as far as Roland Garros is concerned.

“I think I can work on a couple of things that I can do a little bit better,” he insisted.

 ‘Work right way’

“I just need to keep going. I know what I need to work on and I’m going to do it. Work, relax mentally, and work the right way.”

At last year’s delayed Roland Garros, Nadal swept past Djokovic in straight sets in the final.

It was Nadal’s 100th win at the tournament against just two losses since his 2005 title-winning debut.

Giving Djokovic hope, however, is the knowledge that he was responsible for one of those losses, in the 2015 quarter-finals.

He is also a four-time runner-up although three of those defeats in the championship match came against the Spaniard.

Only two men have previously managed to win all four of the Slams on more than one occasion — Roy Emerson and Rod Laver of Australia.

Laver’s achievement came back in 1969.

“I think I have a good chance to go all the way in Paris, but of course it’s a long shot,” said Djokovic who captured the season’s first Grand Slam title in Australia for a ninth time in February.

Federer, with his 40th birthday fast approaching, remains the sentimental favourite but his priority will be an assault on Wimbledon where he has been champion eight times.

-Chasing pack

“I’m not so sure in the last 50 years of the French Open, somebody just rocks up at nearly 40 years old, being out for a year and a half, and wins everything straight,” said Federer after losing his only clay-court match this year in Geneva last week.

Of the chasing pack, two-time runner-up Dominic Thiem is low on form and confidence.

A run to the Madrid semi-finals was followed by a straight sets defeat to Cameron Norrie in his Lyon opener.

World number two Daniil Medvedev has yet to win a match at Roland Garros in four attempts.

In Rome, he fell at the first hurdle and half-jokingly pleaded with the referee to disqualify him such is his dislike for clay.

World number five Stefanos Tsitsipas is the most likely man to upset the odds of Nadal and Djokovic again making the final.

The 22-year-old Greek won the prestigious Monte Carlo clay-court title in April, had match point before losing the Barcelona final to Nadal, and then lifted the Lyon trophy.

He has beaten Nadal on clay in Madrid in 2019 and stretched Djokovic to five sets at the 2020 French Open semi-finals.

This year’s Roland Garros will be the second taking place under the shadow of the coronavirus.

Just over 5,000 fans a day will be allowed on site until June 9 when that figure rises to 13,000.

For the first time this year, there will be nine evening sessions at the tournament.

However, a Covid-19 curfew from 9 pm means that eight of those sessions will be played out inside an empty Court Philippe Chatrier.

-AFP

Italian Open: Nadal Beats Djokovic To Win 10th Rome Title

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during the final of the Men’s Italian Tennis Open at Foro Italico on May 16, 2021 in Rome, Italy. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Rafael Nadal beat world number one Novak Djokovic to win a 10th Italian Open title on Sunday and set down a key marker two weeks out from the defence of his Roland Garros crown.

Second seed Nadal won through 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 in 2hr 49min against the defending champion in the 57th career showdown between the pair.

“It’s amazing I have this trophy in my hands for a 10th time, something impossible to imagine,” said the world number three who also equalled Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles in his 12th Rome final.

“I remember the first final I won here in Rome back in 2005 against (Guillermo) Coria which lasted five hours,” recalled the 34-year-old of his five-set battle past the Argentine.

READ ALSO: Swiatek Crushes Pliskova To Win Italian Open

Djokovic and Nadal were facing each other for the 57th time, having last played in the 2020 French Open final which the Spaniard won in straight sets.

The pair have won 15 of the last 17 Rome titles between them, while Nadal leads their head-to-head in finals in the Italian capital 4-2.

“I really wanted this title. This had been one of the most important titles in my career. I’d won 10 in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros and really wanted it here too,” added Nadal.

Despite losing his opening service game Nadal broke back in the third game hitting twice as many winners as the Serb with 21 in the set.

A dip in form in the second set allowed Djokovic to break twice and get back into the game.

But Nadal got back on track in the third with Djokovic having played nearly five hours on court on Saturday between his rain-delayed quarter-finals and semi-final matches.

 

Spain’s Rafael Nadal (R) greets Serbia’s Novak Djokovic after defeating him in the final of the Men’s Italian Tennis Open at Foro Italico on May 16, 2021 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

 

The Spaniard saved two break points on his serve in the fifth game and broke for love for 4-2.

Djokovic saved a first match point in the eighth game but Nadal made no mistake on his second chance in the following to seal his 88th career title after winning in Barcelona earlier this month.

“It doesn’t get a bigger challenge than playing in the final against Rafa,” said five-time Rome winner Djokovic, who leads their overall head-to-head 29-28.

“Overall three hours of high quality tennis. I’m disappointed not to win, but pleased with my level.

“Going into Paris it’s a good sensation. I feel like I want to feel on clay. If I play like I did last night and today I think I have a shot in Paris.

“I’ll play in Belgrade and then go to Paris ready to rock and roll.”

Nadal has now won 10 or more titles at a single event for the fourth time, after Roland Garros (13), Barcelona (12) and Monte Carlo (11).

The French Open gets underway in Paris on May 30 where Nadal will be chasing a record 21st Grand Slam title.

Djokovic, the 2016 champion at Roland Garros, will be hoping to become the first man in over half a century and just the third in history to win all four majors more than once.

AFP

Djokovic To Play Nadal In Italian Open final

A photo combination of Tennis legends, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
A photo combination of Tennis legends, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

 

World number one Novak Djokovic on Saturday battled past Italian Lorenzo Sonego to set up a clash with nine-time winner Rafael Nadal for the sixth time in the Italian Open final.

Defending champion Djokovic won through 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 in 2hr 44min against the 33rd-ranked Italian after second seed Nadal earlier swept past American Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4.

Djokovic had earlier survived a three-set battle with Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in their rain-delayed quarter-finals.

The five-time Rome winner had been trailing 6-4, 2-1 when the tie was halted overnight.

But he came back to win through 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 after 3hr 16min.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates a point against Italy's Lorenzo Sonego during their semifinal match of the Men's Italian Open at Foro Italico on May 15, 2021 in Rome, Italy. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates a point against Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego during their semifinal match of the Men’s Italian Open at Foro Italico on May 15, 2021 in Rome, Italy.
Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Djokovic and Nadal, who will be facing each other for the 57th time, last played in the 2020 French Open final which the Spaniard won.

The pair have won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them while Nadal leads their head-to-head in finals in the Italian capital 3-2.

Djokovic had two match points in the 12th game of the second set of his semi-final before Sonego forced a third set to the delight of the home crowd in the Foro Italico.

The Serb saved three break points in the first game of the third set, coming back from 0-40 before powering towards his 11th Rome final

“I think I bounced back very well after the second set and 0-40, maybe if he started with a break up in the third it would be different,” said Djokovic.

“I’ve only myself to blame for not closing the match in the second set, I could have and should have.

“First of all I need to recover. I don’t have much time but hopefully I’ll have fresh legs necessary to have against Rafa.”

Djokovic and Nadal have won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them with Djokovic leading their overall head-to-head 29-27.

Nadal is looking to equal Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles in his 12th Rome final.

Nadal Wins Thriller To Join Djokovic In Rome Last Eight As Fans Return

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates winning against Australia’s Alexei Popyrin during their 2021 ATP Tour Madrid Open tennis tournament singles match at the Caja Magica in Madrid on May 6, 2021. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

 

Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal reached the quarter-finals of the Italian Open in contrasting styles on Thursday as spectators returned to the stands for the first time in Italy.

Nadal and Djokovic have won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them, playing each other in the final five times.

World number one Djokovic needed just 70 minutes to sweep past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2, 6-1.

But nine-time champion Nadal had to save two match points against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) battle over nearly 3hr 30min.

“To be able to win these kind of matches against young players gives me confidence with my body,” said 34-year-old Nadal, who has fallen early in two clay-court Masters tournaments in Monte Carlo and Madrid ahead of Roland Garros.

Nadal will next play either Germany’s Alexander Zverev, the sixth seed, or Japan’s Kei Nishikori for a place in the semi-finals.

Nadal lost to Zverev, 24, in the Madrid Masters quarter-finals last week.

Defending champion Djokovic, a five-time Rome winner, next plays Monte Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rematch of last year’s French Open semi-final which the Serbian won.

Fifth seed Tsitsipas ended the run of home hope Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 in one hour and 36 minutes.

“It always feels like home coming back to Rome,” said Djokovic, who has never failed to reach the quarter-finals in his 15 appearances in the clay-court event.

“Each year the love affair grows even more because the bond is stronger and stronger.

“Hopefully I can feel a little bit of that love more tomorrow so I can keep on progressing in the tournament.”

– ‘Establish control’ –

After losing his opening service game, Djokovic powered back with five breaks of serve, outclassing his rival, despite a late fightback, to seal the win on his sixth match point.

“He started well, but I managed to break back straight away and establish the control and consistency,” said the 18-time Grand Slam winner.

“I thought I played at least 20-30 percent better than on Monday. I am on a good trajectory and hopefully tomorrow will be even better.”

Spaniard Nadal will be making his 16th last-eight appearance in Rome. It will also be his 97th ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final.

Nadal trailed by 0-4 in the opening set, and 0-3 in the second.

Shapovalov also broke for 3-1 in the third set but Nadal broke back immediately and held on despite two match points against him in the 12th game to force a tie-break.

Nadal’s experience in the high-pressure moments paid off against the 22-year-old who had beaten him in their first meeting in Montreal in 2017.

For Shapovalov it was a “tough loss” with only “one or two points” the difference in the clash of left-handers.

“It’s just a tough loss but who’s going to give me crap for losing to Rafa?” said the Canadian who won his only ATP title in Stockholm in 2019.

– ‘Not yet normal’ –

American Reilly Opelka advanced to his second Masters 1000 quarter-final with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 victory against in-form Russian Aslan Karatsev.

The 23-year-old hit 18 aces and saved two set points at 4/6 in the first-set tie-break to set up a meeting with Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in the last eight.

Meanwhile, fans were happy to return after more than a year without live sport.

“After all this time it’s good to be able to watch live sport,” said Alessandro Cimini, one of the first to arrive at the Foro Italico with his son to watch Djokovic and Nadal.

“We bought tickets in January 2020 and we can finally come! On the one hand I’m happy it feels good after all we’ve been through even if obviously it’s not yet back to normal on centre court,” added another tennis fan, Rosy De Luigi, who travelled from San Marino.

Football’s Italian Cup final in Reggio Emilio next Wednesday will also have a limited crowd, followed by Euro 2020 matches at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

AFP

No. 1 Djokovic Joins Nadal, Federer In Skipping Miami

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 21, 2021 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates a point against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev during their men’s singles final match on day fourteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne.  AFP

 

World number one Novak Djokovic said Friday he won’t be playing at the ATP Miami Open, joining fellow Grand Slam legends Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in skipping next week’s event.

The 33-year-old Serbian star won his 18th Grand Slam singles crown and ninth Australian Open singles title last month.

That puts him third on the all-time men’s list behind the 20 Slam titles owned by Swiss star Federer and Spaniard Nadal, who will try to defend his French Open title in the next Slam showdown on the red clay of Roland Garros.

“Dear fans, I’m very sorry to announce that this year I won’t travel to Miami to compete,” Djokovic tweeted Friday.

Djokovic, a six-time Miami champion, cited the global travel issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and his desire to balance events and family life.

READ ALSO: Leeds United Legend Peter Lorimer Dies At 74

“I decided to use this precious time at home to stay with my family,” he said. “With all restrictions, I need to find balance in my time on tour and at home. I look forward to coming back next year!”

Federer won the most recent Miami Open title in 2019, his fourth career trophy at the event, with the tournament being called off last year due to the outbreak of the deadly virus. He wanted to work on his fitness ahead of the other majors later this season.

Nadal, a 34-year-old left-hander, has not played since being ousted from last month’s Australian Open quarter-finals by Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“Sad to announce that I won’t be playing in Miami, a city that I love,” Nadal tweeted earlier this month. “I need to fully recover and get ready for the clay-court season in Europe.”

Nadal seeks a fifth consecutive French Open title and 14th career crown at Roland Garros. He has never won the Miami crown, dropping five finals.

AFP

Djokovic Sets All-Time Record For Weeks At World No. 1

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates his match point against Canada’s Milos Raonic during their men’s singles match on day seven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 14, 2021. William WEST / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic set a new landmark of 311 weeks as world number one on Monday, one week longer than Roger Federer whose tally of a record 20 Grand Slam titles is now firmly in the Serb’s sights.

“Big day today,” the tennis superstar wrote on Twitter.

Djokovic, 33, won his 18th major at the Australian Open in February.

With Federer turning 40 in August, the Serb has time on his side. He is a year younger than Rafael Nadal who also has 20 majors.

“It really excites me to walk the path of legends and giants of this sport,” said Djokovic, in a statement released by the ATP whose rankings have been running since August 23, 1973.

“To know that I earned my place among them by following my childhood dream is a beautiful confirmation that when you do things out of love and passion, everything is possible.”

Djokovic reclaimed the top ranking from Nadal in February 2020 and finished as year-end number one for the sixth time, tying the record set by Pete Sampras.

ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said: “Novak’s many achievements in tennis are nothing short of extraordinary. Among them this record may stand as his single most impressive.

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“Reaching No. 1 is something many players dream of and very few ever accomplish, and to have held the top spot for longer than anyone is testament to the levels of sustained excellence that Novak has redefined in our sport.”

Federer, who returns to action in Doha this week after more than a year out of action to recover from two knee operations, slipped out of the top five on Monday to sixth. His place was taken by Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Djokovic made his top 100 debut in July 2005, just weeks after Nadal had won his first Roland Garros.

He was top 50 in June 2006, top 20 for the first time in October 2006 and top 10 by March 2007.

He first became world number one at the age of 24 on July 4, 2011, the day after winning Wimbledon for the first time, beating Nadal in the final.

Only a six-month injury absence in 2017 saw his ranking plunge, all the way to 22 the following summer.

It was just a blip — Djokovic was back at number one again by November and with the exception of November 2019 until January last year, when Nadal reclaimed pole position, he has been rock solid.

Few would bet against Djokovic, who in 2016 was the first man to break the $100 million prize money barrier, ending his career with more Slams than Federer and Nadal.

In head-to-heads, he leads Federer 27-23 and has won all six of their last meetings at the majors, including 2019’s epic Wimbledon final where he saved two match points.

Djokovic’s record was top news in his native Serbia on Monday, with headlines like “No one was ever like Nole” in daily newspaper Vecernje novosti.

Videos of the most important moments of his career will be projected onto Belgrade town hall on Monday evening, and the capital’s authorities called on fans to gather and honour Djokovic despite the pandemic measures.

ATP top 20 as of March 8:

1. Novak Djokovic (SRB) 12,030 points

2. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 9,850

3. Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 9,735

4. Dominic Thiem (AUT) 9,125

5. Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 6,660 (+1)

6. Roger Federer (SUI) 6,630 (-1)

7. Alexander Zverev (GER) 5,615

8. Andrey Rublev (RUS) 5,019

9. Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 3,640

10. Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 3,480

11. Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 2,910

12. Gael Monfils (FRA) 2,860

13. Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 2,770

14. David Goffin (BEL) 2,760

15. Milos Raonic (CAN) 2,630

16. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 2,585

17. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 2,575

18. Fabio Fognini (ITA) 2,535

19. Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 2,516

20. Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 2,365

AFP

Djokovic Takes Federer’s World Number One Record, Eyes Grand Slam History

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates beating Russia’s Aslan Karatsev in their men’s singles semi-final match on day eleven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 18, 2021. (Photo by Brandon MALONE / AFP)

 

Novak Djokovic will on Monday set a new landmark of 311 weeks as world number one, surpassing Roger Federer whose hold on a record-equalling 20 Grand Slam titles is now firmly in the Serb’s sights.

The 33-year-old Djokovic, already the winner of 18 majors, has time on his side with Federer turning 40 in August.

He is also a year younger than Rafael Nadal who also has 20 majors.

“Now that I’ve become the historic No.1, I’m relieved,” said Djokovic after sweeping to a ninth Australian Open last month which guaranteed his extended stay at the top.

“Now, I’m going to be able to focus mainly on the Grand Slams.”

Djokovic reclaimed the top ranking from Nadal in February 2020 and finished as year-end number one for the sixth time, tying the mark set by Pete Sampras.

He is currently in his fifth different spell atop the rankings.

Nadal, currently at number two, has been at the top for ‘only’ 209 weeks in total although the 13-time Roland Garros champion can boast being a top 10 ever-present since April 2005.

He will, however, lose his world number two spot to Daniil Medvedev a week on Monday.

READ ALSO: Global Players Brainstorm To Boost COVID-19 Vaccine Output

Federer, who returns to action in Doha next week after more than a year out of action to recover from two knee surgeries, will slip out of the top five on Monday.

Djokovic made his top 100 debut in July 2005, just weeks after Nadal had won his first Roland Garros.

He was top 50 in June 2006, top 20 for the first time in October 2006 and top 10 by March 2007.

He first became world number one at the age of 24 on July 4, 2011, the day after winning Wimbledon for the first time, beating Nadal in the final.

– Brief dip and swift return –

Only a six-month injury absence in 2017 saw his ranking plunge, all the way to 22 the following summer.

It was just a blip — Djokovic was back at number one again by November and with the exception of November 2019 until January last year, when Nadal reclaimed pole position, he has been rock solid.

Few would bet against Djokovic, who in 2016 was the first man to break the $100 million prize money barrier, ending his career with more Slams than Federer and Nadal.

In head-to-heads, he leads Federer 27-23 and has won all six of their last meetings at the majors, including 2019’s epic Wimbledon final where he saved two match points.

Federer hasn’t beaten Djokovic at the Slams since Wimbledon in 2012.

Against Nadal, he has a 29-27 lead and is still one of only two men to have beaten the Spaniard at Roland Garros since 2005.

At least Nadal, however, can boast comfortably seeing off Djokovic in the 2020 Roland Garros final, denying the Serb the opportunity to become the first man in half a century to win all four Slams more than once.

Djokovic, whose lone French Open title came in 2016, has comfortably more Australian Opens than Federer (six) and Nadal (one).

His Wimbledon total stands at five to Federer’s eight and Nadal’s two.

At the US Open, he has three to Federer’s five and Nadal’s four.

“Obviously I have in my mind to win more Grand Slam titles and to break records.

“Until I retire from the tour, I will be devoting most of my attention and energy to winning the other major titles,” Djokovic said.

Djokovic Beats Medvedev To Win Ninth Australian Open

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates beating Russia’s Aslan Karatsev in their men’s singles semi-final match on day eleven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 18, 2021. (Photo by Brandon MALONE / AFP)

 

Peerless world number one Novak Djokovic demolished Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in straight sets to win his ninth Australian Open title and extend his record-breaking reign at Melbourne Park Sunday.

Djokovic overpowered the fourth seed 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in front of 7,400 fans on Rod Laver Arena to end the Russian’s unbeaten run at 20 matches.

In winning a third straight Australian Open for the second time, the Serb claimed his 18th Grand Slam title to move within two of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who have 20 each, while denying Medvedev his first.

Rarely has a player been so dominant at a single tournament with the Serb’s record-extending ninth title moving him past Federer’s eight at Wimbledon but still a long way behind the 13 Nadal has won at Roland Garros.

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But it was a rollercoaster ride to get there, with Djokovic dropping five sets en route to the final and battling an abdominal injury that nearly forced him to pull out after the third round.

Despite admitting it was a gamble to keep playing, with a risk the injury could get worse and affect the rest of his season, the 33-year-old chose to continue and it paid off.

Medvedev, 25, is one of the smartest players on tour, keeping his opponents guessing with his flat and low groundstrokes, changing up the pace and angles, as he blends impenetrable defence with opportunistic offence.

But the Serb, who held a 4-3 head-to-head record against him but had lost three of the previous four, had his measure.

– Wild backhand –

In front of a pro-Djokovic crowd, Medvedev overcooked two forehands on his opening service game then sent one into the net to hand the Serb the first break points, then a wild backhand saw him immediately on the back foot.

Djokovic consolidated with a serve to love before the Russian finally got off the mark with a wobbly hold for 1-3. But then a failed drop shot and net volley from the top seed allowed the Russian to break back.

Long rallies ensued and it went with serve until some brilliant groundstrokes from Djokovic earned three break points at 6-5. Medvedev saved two but not the third to lose the opening set.

Undeterred, the tall, pencil-thin Russian kept coming and dialed up the pressure to break Djokovic’s opening serve in set two, only for the Serb to immediately strike back.

Djokovic won three games in a row, despite the disruption of two fans being ejected in an apparent refugee protest, as he took control.

He raced to a 5-2 lead with Medvedev smashing his racquet in frustration as the set and the championship began slipping away.

Deflated, Medvedev dropped his opening serve in set three and never looked like finding a way back as Djokovic, in his 28th Grand Slam final compared to the Russian’s second, drew on his experience to close out the match, dropping to the court in celebration.

The win reinforced Djokovic’s status as world number one, where he will mark his 311th week when the new rankings come out on Monday, surpassing Federer’s record of 310.

Medvedev will move to a career-high three in the rankings, behind Nadal.

‘Best I’ve Felt’ – Djokovic Fires Warning As He Ends Karatsev Dream

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates beating Russia’s Aslan Karatsev in their men’s singles semi-final match on day eleven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 18, 2021. (Photo by Brandon MALONE / AFP)

 

Eight-time champion Novak Djokovic said he was peaking just at the right time Thursday after ending the dream run of Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev to reach his ninth Australian Open final.

The 33-year-old Serb, showing no ill-effects from an abdomen injury sustained in the third round, overwhelmed the 114th-ranked Karatsev 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 53 minutes to reach his 28th Grand Slam final.

“This is the best I’ve felt in the entire tournament,” said Djokovic, who hit 30 winners and 17 aces.

“I could swing through the ball. No pain. The best match so far.”

He added: “Couldn’t be better timing for me to play my best tennis.”

Djokovic, 33, who has never lost an Australian Open final, is one win away from his 18th Grand Slam trophy, snapping at the heels of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who are on 20.

In his way will be fourth seed Daniil Medvedev or Nadal’s conqueror Stefanos Tsitsipas, the fifth seed, who play their semi-final on Friday.

“I’m going to take the popcorn and enjoy it,” he said. “I absolutely have zero preference.”

“I’m ready for the toughest match of the tournament… both of these guys are in great form,” he added.

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“Medvedev is playing extremely high quality. He is the player to beat.

“Tsitsipas produced some phenomenal tennis against Rafa.

“He’s definitely going in the right direction. He has no holes in his game.”

Djokovic remained cagey over his injury, which he first suspected being a torn muscle, saying he would only reveal its extent after the final.

But he said he planned to resume training on Saturday, after being unable to practise between matches because of the injury.

“I am surprised the way I felt tonight. I think it surpassed my greatest wishes,” he said.

“I just have… this pretty good ability to recover fast.”

– Butterfly battle –

Moving sharper than he has since he was injured while playing Taylor Fritz, Djokovic lifted his intensity in his best performance of the tournament.

Karatsev, however, wasn’t disgraced after becoming the first man in the Open era to reach a semi-final on his Grand Slam debut, and just the second qualifier to do so at the Australian Open after Bob Giltinan in 1977.

His magical run included wins over eighth seed Diego Schwartzmann, 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov, but came up short against the ultimate test.

A wary Djokovic had predicted Karatsev would come out aggressively and he proved right with the underdog undaunted in a free-wheeling approach.

Aside from being briefly menaced by a butterfly as he prepared to serve, Djokovic wasn’t rattled and his defensive mastery suffocated Karatsev in the eighth game.

He subsequently clinched the first set with an ace and then put the foot down to break to love.

Karatsev wouldn’t go away, almost wiping away Djokovic’s advantage before the eight-time champion held serve in a see-sawing 10th game and celebrated with gusto.

Despite some service struggles, Djokovic was not to be denied to record his first straight-sets victory since an opening-round romp against Jeremy Chardy.

Journeyman Karatsev, who spent a chunk of his youth in Israel, Germany and Spain, and had failed on nine previous occasions to qualify for a Grand Slam tournament, is set to rocket to 42 on the ATP rankings.

Djokovic, Williams, Osaka Star In Australian Open Semi-Finals

A combination photo of Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic, and Serena Williams.

 

 

Novak Djokovic will look to stay on track for an 18th Grand Slam title, while Serena Williams has the formidable figure of Naomi Osaka blocking her path to a record-equalling 24th when the Australian Open semi-finals begin on Thursday.

Around 7,500 fans will be back on a reduced capacity Rod Laver Arena, after a five-day state coronavirus lockdown, but Djokovic will be in unknown territory in the night match against Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev, who he has never played before.

The world number one, who has been hampered by an abdominal injury, confessed he had not seen much of the tournament’s surprise semi-finalist — who has already seen off three seeds — but that he wouldn’t take the world number 114 lightly.

“He’s impressed a lot of people with his movement and firepower from the baseline,” said Djokovic of Karatsev.

“He doesn’t have anything to lose, really. He’s motivated.”

Karatsev, who is guaranteed to rise into the world’s top 50, is the first man in the Open era to reach a semi-final on his Grand Slam debut, and just the second qualifier to do so at the Australian Open after Bob Giltinan in 1977.

Earlier Williams, the 10th seed, opens proceedings on Rod Laver against Osaka aiming to keep alive her dream of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam crown, wary of again falling victim to the Japanese superstar who beat her in the 2018 US Open final.

The winner will play for the championship on Saturday against either Czech 25th seed Karolina Muchova or American 22nd seed Jennifer Brady, who clash in the second semi-final on Melbourne Park’s main show court.

– ‘Bring my A-game’ –
Williams, 39, sits one behind Margaret Court’s elusive all-time mark of 24 majors after losing four Slam finals since her 2017 victory at Melbourne Park while pregnant.

One of those was the controversial 2018 US Open final defeat to Osaka, where the American star was docked a point and a game after losing her temper when warned about coaching.

Osaka was booed by some fans and was in tears during the awards ceremony, later calling what should have been her moment of glory “a little bittersweet”.

Williams said both players had reached “closure” on the painful moment, which has seen them inextricably linked ever since.

They have played each other just once since that New York meeting, in the quarter-finals of the 2019 Rogers Cup in Toronto which Williams won in straight sets.

Brady will face Muchova in the other semi-final, with a maiden Slam final guaranteed for one of them.

Muchova, fresh from her upset of top-ranked Ashleigh Barty on Wednesday, said she had noted Brady’s “very big strokes” in their one previous meeting, when she beat the American in Prague in 2019.

“So definitely going to be a tough battle,” she said of Brady, who toppled compatriot Jessica Pegula to make her second major semi-final after last year’s US Open.

“I think I will have to bring my A-game to play with her because she is really playing amazing matches, having a good season.”