Rafael Nadal v Novak Djokovic - five great matches

Clay master: Rafael Nadal reacts after beating Djokovic for the 29th and final time at last year's French Open
Clay master: Rafael Nadal reacts after beating Djokovic for the 29th and final time at last year's French Open

Rafael Nadal on Thursday pulled out of the French Open and revealed that 2024 is likely to be his last season in tennis after a career which has brought him 22 Grand Slam titles and an epic rivalry with Novak Djokovic.

The pair have met 59 times with the Serbian edging their rivalry 30-29.

Here, AFP Sport looks at five of their best meetings:

2012 Australian Open final

Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5

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-- In the longest ever Grand Slam final at five hours and 53 minutes, Djokovic came back from 4-2 down in the fifth set. It was the third successive Grand Slam final that Djokovic and Nadal had contested, and saw the Serb extend his winning streak over Nadal to seven straight matches.

"I think it comes out on the top because, just the fact that we played almost six hours is incredible," said Djokovic when asked if it had been his greatest ever match.

An exhausted Nadal added: "Physically it was the toughest match I ever played."

2012 French Open final

Nadal 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5

-- In a final that was played over two days due to several rain delays, Nadal hit 34 winners to 29 unforced errors, and led two sets and a break before the Serb took eight consecutive games and a 2-1 lead in the fourth set, with a break, into Monday.


When play resumed, Nadal broke back and went on to wrap up victory in three hours and 49 minutes for what was his seventh title in Paris.

"It is an honour and for me the most important tournament, the greatest in my eyes. This is an unforgettable moment," said Nadal.

Djokovic added: "The playing conditions were not good. But it's not anybody's fault, and it's not the reason why I lost today."

2013 French Open semi-final

Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3/7), 9-7

-- Djokovic was trying to become the eighth man to complete the career Grand Slam while Nadal was bidding for an eighth title in Paris. Djokovic had earlier in the season defeated the Spaniard on clay in Monte Carlo, ending Nadal's 46-match win streak.


In the Roland Garros semi-final, Nadal was 6-5 up in the fourth set and two points from victory but Djokovic hit back and then led 4-2 in the final set before Nadal dug deep to triumph after four hours and 37 minutes.

"I want to congratulate Novak, he's a great champion and he will win here at Roland Garros one day, I'm sure," said Nadal.

World number one Djokovic added: "It's been an unbelievable match but all I can feel now is disappointment. I congratulate him, that's why he's a champion."

2018 Wimbledon semi-final

Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (11/9), 3-6, 10-8


-- Just weeks before Wimbledon, Djokovic had suffered a shock quarter-final exit at the French Open at the hands of Marco Cecchinato, the world number 72 from Italy, and had even threatened to skip the grasscourt Grand Slam.

The semi-final was another classic with Djokovic saving five break points in the fifth set before triumphing after five hours and 15 minutes.

"One of the longest matches of my career. I am overwhelmed," said Djokovic.

Nadal said: "I have not much more inside me. I gave it my best."

2022 French Open quarter-final

Nadal 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4)

-- Nadal edged a late-night classic to reach his 15th French Open semi-final.


The Spaniard won the pair's 59th career meeting after a four-hour-and-12-minute quarter-final on a raucous Court Philippe Chatrier.

Nadal sealed his eighth victory in 10 French Open matches against defending champion Djokovic at 1:16 am local time.

"I'm very emotional. For me it's incredible to play here," said Nadal.

Head-to-head: Djokovic 30-29