Some thought we might finally see the changing of the guard on Friday at the French Open with Rafael Nadal and his complete domination of this clay surface. Facing the No. 1-ranked player in the world in Novak Djokovic, the match was expected to be every bit as exciting as the hype, and it lived up to everything one would expect between these two.
Nadal beat Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7 in what can only be described as another classic match between these two legends, a match that you could never really get a feel for until the very end. Nadal will now face the winner of the Jo-Wilfried Tsonga-David Ferrer match, and moves to an astonishing 58-1 in his career at the French Open.
It started off as you might expect. Nadal and Djokovic traded early blows, with Nadal breaking Djokovic at 4-3 and holding serve to snag the first set. The second set was the oddest, with Nadal breaking Djokovic again at 3-2 but then dropping three straight games to Novak, who squared the match at a set apiece.
Then the third set happened and it looked like it was all but over for Djokovic. Nadal was finding another gear, pounding the ball on his favorite surface and it took a late service game to allow Novak to win any game at all in the set, setting up the fourth.
It was here that it first looked like Djokovic might just win this thing. Nadal broke Djokovic to go up 4-3, but Novak came right back and broke Nadal's serve to even the set at four games each. Nadal again took command with a break to go up 6-5, and with his back completely to the wall, Djokovic was able to break back again to push the fourth into a tiebreaker.
From there is was the Djokovic show, and he took the momentum from that set into the fifth with a break in the first game, but Nadal was just too tough, breaking back. The rest of the match was back and forth but it seemed that Nadal was always a step ahead, winning 9-7 in what can best be described as a semifinal that very much felt like the championship match.
Djokovic now must wait another year to see if he can complete his career Grand Slam, and while he wasn't able to pull this match out, it seemed he is getting closer and closer to figuring out Nadal on this surface.