Defending champion Rafael Nadal plays down the hype surrounding today’s quarter-final clash against World No 1 Novak Djokovic
Paris: Rafael Nadal believes all the pressure will be on Novak Djokovic in today's French Open quarter-final with the nine-time champion dismissing the headline-grabbing collision as "not vital".
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Novak Djokovic celebrates a match point over Richard Gasquet of France on Monday and Rafael Nadal celebrates his victory over Jack Sock on Monday. Pics/AFP, Getty Images
Nadal has defeated World No 1 Djokovic six times out of six at Roland Garros where the Spaniard boasts a record of 70 wins and just one loss. Three of his victories against Djokovic have been in the last three years — in the 2012 and 2014 finals and 2013 semi-finals.
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In contrast to Nadal's domination, Djokovic remains frustratingly just one French Open title short of a career Grand Slam, something already achieved by the Spaniard, fellow present-day rival Roger Federer and five other men.
"This is not vital," said Nadal, who has not played Djokovic at such an early stage of any tournament for eight years. "If it was a final, things would be different. It's a quarter-final and if you win you go to the semi-final. It's not a matter of lifting the trophy.
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"Last year I beat him in the final. This is not the match of the year. Matches of the year are finals and decisive matches. If I lose the quarter-final my life won't change." Top seed Djokovic eased into the last eight on Monday with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 win over Richard Gasquet.
When Rafa ruled over Djoko in Paris...
Nadal beat Djokovic 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4
Nadal wins ninth Roland Garros title and 14th major, becoming first man to win five Roland Garros crowns in succession as the Spaniard takes his record at the tournament to 66 wins against just one defeat. The Serb dominates the early stages of the final, seemingly immune to the sweltering 30-degree heat on Philippe Chatrier court. But Nadal, playing in his 20th Grand Slam final to Djokovic's 13th, grows stronger as the final wears on as he ends a four-match losing streak against his old rival. The 3 hour 31 min duel ends on a sour note when Djokovic double-faults on match point, shaken by a shout from the crowd.
Nadal beat Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3/7), 9-7
Nadal recovers from 4-2 down in the deciding set to clinch victory after 4 hours 37 minutes on court
In a dramatic and controversial final set, Djokovic breaks for 1-0 before Nadal levels in the eighth game after the Serb is handed a time violation and then loses a point when he collides with the net as he puts away a smash. Djokovic even summons the tournament supervisor onto the court to rage over the court conditions as he prepares to serve at 7-8. Nadal pounces, moving to three match points and clinches victory when Djokovic, who ends with an ugly 75 unforced errors, hits wild and long.
Nadal beat Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5
In a fractious final pushed into a third week for only the second time because of rain on the Sunday, victory is achieved on a Djokovic double fault and allows Nadal to break the tie for six French Opens he shares with Bjorn Borg. For Djokovic, the Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champion, it is the end of his dream of emulating Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) by holding all the Grand Slams at once. He is left to regret his unforced error count of 53 which undermines his challenge. When play was suspended on the Sunday Nadal was leading 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 1-2, but with Djokovic in the ascendancy and serving for a 3-1 lead in the fourth set.
Earlier meetings in Paris
Nadal bt Djokovic 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3)
Nadal bt Djokovic 7-5, 6-4, 6-2
Nadal bt Djokovic 6-4, 6-4 - retired