How about this for a contrast: the eight semi-finalists combined in the men’s and women’s draw at the French Open had a total of 78 Grand Slam appearances in the last four previously. Out of this, the four women and two other men accounted for a total of five. A certain Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal accounted for 73. The mind, as ever with these two, boggles.
And so we arrive at the main event on Friday. Sure, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev are in action too but the world is waiting for the most prolific modern tennis rivalry (men’s singles). No two men have met more often than Djokovic and Nadal have on a tennis court in the Open Era and they clash for the 58th time on Friday.
And at the same court where they first met 15 years ago.
(Scroll across to view all columns in the tables below. All stats for Open Era only)
Most frequent rivalries in men's tennis
|Rivalry||Matches played (all levels)||Head-to-head record|
Most matches at Grand Slams (men's)
|Federer - Djokovic||17||6 - 11|
|Djokovic- Nadal||16||6 - 10|
|Federer-Nadal||14||4 - 10|
|Djokovic-Murray||10||8 - 2|
|Lendl-McEnroe||10||7 - 3|
|Federer-Berdych||10||8 - 2|
Most matches at clay Grand Slams (men's)
|Djokovic- Nadal||8||1 - 7|
|Federer-Nadal||6||0 - 6|
|Lendl-Wilander||4||2 - 2|
Most matches on clay overall
|Djokovic-Nadal||26||7 - 19|
|Nadal-Ferrer||22||20 - 2|
|Federer - Nadal||16||2 - 14|
|Vilas-Dibbs||16||13 - 3|
|Vilas-Higueras||16||12 - 4|
In fact, in terms of win percentages for each player, no other rivalry in the list of most matches played among men (top 35) is as close as things stand between these two all-time greats. Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg come close with a record of 13-14 in 27 matches.
At stake is a place in the French Open final, of course. But both players will also have history in their sights in Paris.
Djokovic, an 18-time major winner and 2016 French Open champion, is looking to become the first man in more than half a century to win all four Slams twice.
Nadal, meanwhile, can win a record-setting 21st major with victory in Sunday’s final, edging ahead of Roger Federer in the all-time race.
Friday’s semi-final will be the eighth between Djokovic and Nadal at Roland Garros where the Spaniard has a commanding 7-1 advantage. That includes last year’s final but Djokovic remains just one of two men to have defeated Nadal at the tournament.
The two men 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.
Recently turned 35-year-old 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. Indeed, Djokovic hasn’t beaten Nadal on this 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.
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.
Djokovic vs Nadal:
Overall H2H: Djokovic leads 29-28
On clay: Nadal leads 19-7
At French Open: Nadal leads 7-1
At all Grand Slams: Nadal leads 10-6
Among the many reasons to look forward to this epic match-up is the fact that Nadal has the chance to once again level things up in their head-to-head at 29-all. The rivalry began, of course, with Nadal dominating their early encounters but once Djokovic caught up with him on the back of a stunning 2015 season, it’s been the Serb who has had the overall edge. In 2015-2016, he won seven matches in a row to reduce the deficit from 19-23, to go into a 26-23 lead.
Nadal now has the chance to bring things back on level terms on his favourite surface, at a venue that is his kingdom.
Of course, all the talk about the rivalry being closely fought, is essentially true when you consider all the surfaces. On dirt, it has largely been one-sided in favour of the King of Clay.
List of Nadal-Djokovic matches (reverse)
|2021||ATP Masters 1000 Rome||Outdoor Clay||F||Rafael Nadal||75 16 63|
|2020||Roland Garros||Outdoor Clay||F||Rafael Nadal||60 62 75|
|2020||ATP Cup||Outdoor Hard||F||Novak Djokovic||62 764|
|2019||ATP Masters 1000 Rome||Outdoor Clay||F||Rafael Nadal||60 46 61|
|2019||Australian Open||Outdoor Hard||F||Novak Djokovic||63 62 63|
|2018||Wimbledon||Outdoor Grass||SF||Novak Djokovic||64 36 769 36 108|
|2018||ATP Masters 1000 Rome||Outdoor Clay||SF||Rafael Nadal||764 63|
|2017||ATP Masters 1000 Madrid||Outdoor Clay||SF||Rafael Nadal||62 64|
|2016||ATP Masters 1000 Rome||Outdoor Clay||QF||Novak Djokovic||75 764|
|2016||ATP Masters 1000 Indian Wells||Outdoor Hard||SF||Novak Djokovic||765 62|
|2016||Doha||Outdoor Hard||F||Novak Djokovic||61 62|
|2015||ATP Finals||Indoor Hard||SF||Novak Djokovic||63 63|
|2015||Beijing||Outdoor Hard||F||Novak Djokovic||62 62|
|2015||Roland Garros||Outdoor Clay||QF||Novak Djokovic||75 63 61|
|2015||ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo||Outdoor Clay||SF||Novak Djokovic||63 63|
|2014||Roland Garros||Outdoor Clay||F||Rafael Nadal||36 75 62 64|
|2014||ATP Masters 1000 Rome||Outdoor Clay||F||Novak Djokovic||46 63 63|
|2014||ATP Masters 1000 Miami||Outdoor Hard||F||Novak Djokovic||63 63|
|2013||ATP Finals||Indoor Hard||F||Novak Djokovic||63 64|
|2013||Beijing||Outdoor Hard||F||Novak Djokovic||63 64|
|2013||US Open||Outdoor Hard||F||Rafael Nadal||62 36 64 61|
|2013||ATP Masters 1000 Canada||Outdoor Hard||SF||Rafael Nadal||64 36 762|
|2013||Roland Garros||Outdoor Clay||SF||Rafael Nadal||64 36 61 673 97|
|2013||ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo||Outdoor Clay||F||Novak Djokovic||62 761|
|2012||Roland Garros||Outdoor Clay||F||Rafael Nadal||64 63 26 75|
|2012||ATP Masters 1000 Rome||Outdoor Clay||F||Rafael Nadal||75 63|
|2012||ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo||Outdoor Clay||F||Rafael Nadal||63 61|
|2012|| Australian Open||Outdoor Hard||F||Novak Djokovic||57 64 62 675 75|
|2011||US Open||Outdoor Hard||F||Novak Djokovic||62 64 673 61|
|2011||Wimbledon||Outdoor Grass||F||Novak Djokovic||64 61 16 63|
|2011||ATP Masters 1000 Rome||Outdoor Clay||F||Novak Djokovic||64 64|
|2011||ATP Masters 1000 Madrid||Outdoor Clay||F||Novak Djokovic||75 64|
|2011||ATP Masters 1000 Miami||Outdoor Hard||F||Novak Djokovic||46 63 764|
|2011||ATP Masters 1000 Indian Wells||Outdoor Hard||F||Novak Djokovic||46 63 62|
|2010||ATP Finals||Indoor Hard||RR||Rafael Nadal||75 62|
|2010||US Open||Outdoor Hard||F||Rafael Nadal||64 57 64 62|
|2009||ATP Finals||Indoor Hard||RR||Novak Djokovic||765 63|
|2009||ATP Masters 1000 Paris||Indoor Hard||SF||Novak Djokovic||62 63|
|2009||ATP Masters 1000 Cincinnati||Outdoor Hard||SF||Novak Djokovic||61 64|
|2009||ATP Masters 1000 Madrid||Outdoor Clay||SF||Rafael Nadal||36 765 769|
|2009||ATP Masters 1000 Rome||Outdoor Clay||F||Rafael Nadal||762 62|
|2009||ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo||Outdoor Clay||F||Rafael Nadal||63 26 61|
|2009||ESP vs. SRB WG 1st RD||Outdoor Clay||RR||Rafael Nadal||64 64 61|
|2008||Beijing Olympics||Outdoor Hard||SF||Rafael Nadal||64 16 64|
|2008||ATP Masters 1000 Cincinnati||Outdoor Hard||SF||Novak Djokovic||61 75|
|2008||Queen's||Outdoor Grass||F||Rafael Nadal||766 75|
|2008||Roland Garros||Outdoor Clay||SF||Rafael Nadal||64 62 763|
|2008||ATP Masters 1000 Hamburg||Outdoor Clay||SF||Rafael Nadal||75 26 62|
|2008||ATP Masters 1000 Indian Wells||Outdoor Hard||SF||Novak Djokovic||63 62|
|2007||Tennis Masters Cup China||Indoor Hard||RR||Rafael Nadal||64 64|
|2007||ATP Masters 1000 Canada||Outdoor Hard||SF||Novak Djokovic||75 63|
|2007||Wimbledon||Outdoor Grass||SF||Rafael Nadal||36 61 41 RET|
|2007||Roland Garros||Outdoor Clay||SF||Rafael Nadal||75 64 62|
|2007||ATP Masters 1000 Rome||Outdoor Clay||QF||Rafael Nadal||62 63|
|2007||ATP Masters 1000 Miami||Outdoor Hard||QF||Novak Djokovic||63 64|
|2007|| ATP Masters 1000|
|Outdoor Hard||F||Rafael Nadal||62 75|
|2006||Roland Garros||Outdoor Clay||QF||Rafael Nadal||64 64 RET|
With AFP inputs
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