As Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic prepare for their eighth grand slam final, we look back on some of the best meetings between the pair.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will contest an eighth grand slam final on Sunday when they meet in the showpiece of the Australian Open.
The pair have 31 major titles between them and have served up numerous pulsating encounters over the course of their glittering careers.
It will be the second time the two have faced off in the final at Melbourne Park and, if this encounter lives up to that incredible match, the Rod Laver Arena crowd will be in for a treat.
Of the 52 meetings between Djokovic and Nadal, the Serbian has won 27 to the Spaniard’s 25, and here we look at five of the best as they gear up to hopefully deliver another classic on the biggest stage.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 25, 2019
2018 Wimbledon semi-final
The last Djokovic-Nadal offering was one fans were made to wait for, but the patience of supporters at the All England Club was rewarded.
A marathon semi-final between Kevin Anderson and John Isner meant Nadal and Djokovic did not take to the Centre Court until gone 20:00 local time, although the late start did not appear to hamper them as they played some electric tennis under the closed roof.
It was a stark contrast to the semi-final that had gone before; clean, crisp hitting with high-energy movement made for an enthralling affair, it was just a shame the 23:00 curfew forced them to stop after Djokovic edged a suitably brilliant third-set tie-break.
Nadal ensured Saturday’s ticket-holders got more bang for their buck by forcing a decider with a successful challenge of a serve that was called out, having already staved off a trio of break points in a crucial game.
A stunning fifth set went in Djokovic’s favour after Nadal, who had already saved a match point in game 16, slipped on a forehand and gave his opponent another three opportunities to win it.
Nadal went wide on the first one to bring the monumental meeting to an end and send the Serbian into his first major final since the 2016 US Open with a 6-4 3-6 7-6 (11-9) 3-6 10-8 triumph.
For the first time since 2016, @DjokerNole is a Grand Slam finalist.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 14, 2018
2015 French Open quarter-final
Roland Garros is Nadal’s dominion.
He was already the most prolific at the French Open having won nine tiltes, but his wait for ‘La Decima’ would go on as Djokovic finally got the better of him in Paris – it only took seven attempts!
There was an aspect of vengeance for Djokovic, who lost the 2014 final to the King of Clay, when he handed Nadal just the second loss of his career at Roland Garros.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 4, 2015
But such joys were shortlived as the Serbian failed to complete his career Grand Slam by losing to Stan Wawrinka in the showpiece on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Having almost been moved to tears by the reception he received from the crowd in the wake of his third French Open final loss, Djokovic said: “I respect the appreciation they showed me. It’s something that definitely gives me even more motivation to come back and keep on trying.”
He finally got his hands on the trophy the following year.
2013 French Open semi-final
Having missed the Australian Open amid seven months out with a serious knee injury, Nadal wasted little time in returning to his previous heights by booking his place in an eighth Roland Garros final – but he did not make it easy for himself.
The Spaniard missed a chance to serve out the match at 6-5 in the fourth set and soon found himself 4-2 down in the decider.
But Nadal, as Djokovic put it afterwards, showed “why he’s been ruling Roland Garros for many years” by forging ahead and clinching a 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 9-7 triumph.
The final-set tussle lasted 87 minutes, but it was by no means their longest battle…
2012 Australian Open final
That honour belongs to this meeting at Melbourne Park, where Djokovic and Nadal, ranked first and second in the world respectively as they are now, played out the longest grand slam final in history – a record that still stands.
Nadal managed to force a decider after surrendering his one-set advantage and looked to be on course for an 11th major title when he took a 4-2 lead in the fifth.
But Djokovic showed the grit and drive that would see him dominate the ATP Tour for the next four and a half years, completing a 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 triumph in five hours and 53 minutes.
“Rafa, you’re one of the best players ever. You’re one of the most respected guys on the tour. We made history tonight,” said the Serbian during the post-match presentation. “I hope we will have many more finals like this.”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 11, 2013
2009 Madrid Open semi-final
This was their fourth meeting in just over two months, and it proved to be an absolute stunner.
Nadal had beaten Djokovic in the Davis Cup and the finals of the Monte Carlo Masters and the Internazionali d’Italia as he diplayed why he is, without doubt, the King of Clay.
But the Serbian ran him close on home soil. Nadal saved three match points as he rallied from a set down to triumph 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (11-9) in a monstrous three-setter that took four hours and two minutes.
Reflecting on the encounter two years later, the Spaniard told the ATP: “It was a really emotional match. Seriously, I’m not very happy about how I played that match. I think I wasn’t in the best moment of my career in that match, because I had the problems with the knees and personal problems. Thinking about that, it’s even more important for me.”