Novak Djokovic was full of praise for Rafael Nadal on Wednesday following their mammoth quarter-final battle at Roland Garros. He however claims, ‘had my chances. Didn’t use them’.
Meeting for the 59th time, the World No. 1 and the Spaniard when toe to toe for four hours and 11 minutes on Philippe Chatrier Court, with Nadal walking out the winner in four sets.
“Congratulations to Nadal. He was a better player I think in important moments,” Djokovic admitted in his post-match press conference. “[He] started very well. I didn’t start so great, 2-6, 0-3, double break down. I was gaining momentum as I was coming back in the second set, managed to win the second set, and I thought, I’m back in the game.
“But then he had another two, three fantastic games at the beginning of the third. He was just able to take his tennis to another level in those, particularly moments at the beginning of all sets except the fourth…. he showed why he’s a great champion. Staying mentally tough and finishing the match the way he did. Congrats to him and his team. No doubt he deserved it.”
The Serbian lifted his second Roland Garros crown last year and arrived in Paris in strong form as he looked to retain his title. The 35-year-old captured a record-extending 38th ATP Masters 1000 crown in Rome last month and entered his meeting with Nadal on a nine-match and 21-set winning streak.
However, in front of a packed crowd, the 20-time Grand Slam champion was unable to out manoeuvre the World No. 5 in the crucial moments. Nadal will continue the quest for a record-extending 22nd major when he faces Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals on Friday.
“I had my chances. I had my chances in the fourth [set],” Djokovic said as he reflected on squandering a 5-2 lead in the fourth set. “Served for the set, couple set points. Just one or two shots could have taken me into a fifth. Then it’s really anybody’s match.”
Nadal now leads Djokovic 8-2 at Roland Garros. However, the Serbian holds a 30-29 ATP Head2Head series advantage overall. Djokovic leaves Paris 16-5 on the season and said that despite the defeat, he was proud of his efforts in the French capital.
“I gave my best. I know I could have played better,” Djokovic said. “I’m proud of fighting and staying until the last shot. As I said, I lost to a better player today. Had my chances. Didn’t use them. That’s it. Over four hours’ battle and I have to accept this defeat.”