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Rafa & Novak: The Rivalry

Rafa Novak© Getty ImagesGreat rivals: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Since May 2006, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have played an astonishing 22 times. Nadal has a 15-7 advantage, boasting perfect marks of 9-0 on clay and 2-0 on grass, while Djokovic leads 7-4 on hard courts. Nadal has won all five of their tour-level finals played out on three different surfaces.

Here is a history of the duo's 22 career meetings, beginning with their most recent encounter in US Open final on 13 September 2010.

Nadal Versus Djokovic Head-To-Head Record

2010 US Open Final, Grand Slam, New York City, hard, Nadal d. Djokovic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2
Nadal reversed a three-match losing streak against Djokovic, defeating the Serbian 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to win his first US Open title and become the seventh man to complete the career Grand Slam. Though rain delayed their meeting by a day, Nadal made a confident start to the championship match Monday as he broke Djokovic. Though the Serbian drew level at 2-2, Nadal regained the lead as he converted on his sixth break point opportunity of the next game. The pair was locked at 4-4, 30/30, in the second set when rain suspended play for one hour and 57 minutes. When they returned, Djokovic broke the Spaniard for a third time to force a set off of Nadal for the first time during the 2010 US Open. Djokovic was unable to maintain the momentum, however, with Nadal continually putting pressure on his serve. The top seed created 16 break point chances through the final two sets and converted on three of them (6 for 26 during the match). He claimed the victory as his opponent’s return sailed wide on championship point after three hours and 43 minutes.  Read Full Match Report

2009 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals Round Robin, year-end ATP Championships, London, indoor hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 76(5) 63
Djokovic denied Nadal his 400th tour-level match win (399-91 mark) by defeating the Spaniard 7-6(5), 6-3, but was unable to book a spot in the semi-finals after Nikolay Davydenko beat Robin Soderling in the final round-robin match of the elite eight-man tournament. The match got off to a scrappy start with three successive service breaks before Djokovic was able to carve out a 3-1 lead, saving a break point in the process. Nadal levelled in the eighth game and with the crowd urging him on he was able to force a tie-break. It was Djokovic who produced the better tennis in the first part of the tie-break, moving Nadal around with a drop shot-lob combination to earn a 6-2 lead. A brief lapse in concentration from the Serbian saw Nadal fight back to 6-5, but Djokovic was able to sneak over the line as a forehand error from Nadal – one of 35 unforced errors he committed in the match – handed him a one-set lead. Nadal required a medical timeout to receive treatment on his lower back early in the second set and Djokovic immediately pounced in the fourth game, taking advantage of errors from Nadal to lead 3-1. Djokovic went on to wrap up victory in one hour and 57 minutes. Read Full Match Report

2009 BNP Paribas Masters Semi-finals, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Paris, indoor hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 62 63
In-form Djokovic, a winner at the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel just six days previous, cruised into the final with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Nadal in 77 minutes. Djokovic broke serve to love in the sixth and eighth games of an entertaining 34-minute first set. Nadal won eight of 18 service points, including three aces, and 12 points overall. Djokovic opened up a 3-0 lead in the second set, courtesy of another service break to love in the second game. At 4-2, Djokovic recovered from 15/30 by winning three points in a row. Nadal kept fighting, but never looked likely to reach his first indoor final since February at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. "There's not much to say about today's performance, except it was perfect," said Djokovic, who hit 31 winners. "[It was] exactly the way I wanted it.  I have done, tactically-wise, everything that I imagined to do and planned to do before the match. I was very aggressive. [I] took the early control of the match over my opponent, and it paid off. I was hitting winners from all over the court and really trying to keep that momentum going throughout the whole match. I didn't give him many chances to come back into the match." Read Full Match Report

Djokovic2009 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters Semi-finals, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Cincinnati, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 61 64
Djokovic snapped a five-match losing streak against Nadal, repeating his 2008 semi-final win over the Spaniard in Cincinnati to charge into the final for the second consecutive year. He raced away with the first set in 29 minutes and then closed out the 6-1, 6-4 win in 91 minutes after facing just one break point in the match. Nadal, playing just his second tournament back since Roland Garros as he battled knee tendinitis, fought valiantly in the second set to make the match a contest. He staved off three break points in the opening game of the second set, forced Djokovic to save a break point at 4-3 and then also took Djokovic to deuce in the final game of the match before his young rival served out just his fifth win in 19 meetings with Nadal. "Obviously I have to be very pleased with the way I played," said Djokovic, who won 75 per cent of first-serves points. "This has been one of the best matches of the season so far. I was trying to be from the first point in the control of the match, be very aggressive, and take the chances on each shot or ball that I had. That's what I did." Read Full Match Report

Nadal, Djokovic2009 Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open Semi-finals, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Madrid, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 36 76(5) 76(9)
For the third time in five weeks the pair met. It was dramatic theatre and arguably their best match to date. Nadal saved three match points in a dramatic final-set tie-break to beat Djokovic 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(9) in four hours and two minutes for a spot in the final. It is believed to be the longest best-of-three sets match on the ATP World Tour in the Open Era (since 1968). It was the first time Nadal had played a third set tie-break on clay since 11 July 2003, when he lost to Nicolas Lapentti at Bastad, Sweden. Djokovic had the better of the opening exchanges and led Nadal 3-0 – courtesy of service break in the second game. The third seed managed to maintain his advantage, winning 20 of 26 service points to take the first set in 51 minutes. Djokovic’s fluency continued in the second set, but he was left to rue missed opportunities for service breaks in the third and ninth games. Nadal managed to fight off another break point in an 11-minute game for a 6-5 lead and went on to create his first break point opportunity, a set point, in the next game. Nadal maintained his record of never losing a tie-break against Djokovic to level the score line. Djokovic regained his composure to open up a 3-1 lead, after breaking Nadal in the fourth game. But Nadal responded with an immediate service break of his own. In the third-set tie-break Djokovic created his first match point when he hit a forehand winner for a 6-5 lead, but he could not capitalise on the chance as Nadal hit a forehand winner down the line from a long baseline rally. A second match point went begging on a Nadal second serve at 7-6, when Nadal wrong-footed Djokovic with a series of forehands before hitting the winning forehand stroke on approach to the net. Nadal’s first match point came and went at 8-7. Djokovic hit a nerveless forehand winner, having hit a second serve to Nadal’s forehand, for his third match point at 9-8 after four hours of play. Nadal gritted his teeth once again, and urged on by his compatriots was able to recover to 10-9 courtesy of a Djokovic forehand in the net and a forehand winner down the line. Nadal seized control of his second match point by forcing Djokovic out wide to lunge for a forehand, which landed in the net. Read Full Match Report

Nadal2009 Internazionali BNL d'Italia Final, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Rome, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 76(2) 62
Two weeks on from their keenly contested match in the final of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Nadal and Djokovic met in an ATP World Tour final for the fourth time at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome. Nadal served for the first set twice, but each time was thwarted by a Djokovic determined to defend his title at the Foro Italico. The Spaniard raised his level in the first-set tie-break though before breaking twice in the second set to secure his 30th consecutive clay-court victory and a record fourth Internazionali BNL d'Italia title after two hours and three minutes of play. Nadal’s victory had added significance for Djokovic, who will surrender his No. 3 South African Airways 2009 ATP Ranking to current No. 4 Andy Murray when the 2008 Rome points drop on 11 May. Read Full Match Report

Nadal2009 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters Final, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Monte-Carlo, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 63 26 61
In their third meeting in an ATP World Tour final, Nadal prevailed over Djokovic 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 to clinch his fifth straight title at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. Nadal reeled off five straight games to take the opening set in 63 minutes, but dropped his first set in Monte-Carlo since the 2006 final after Djokovic went up two early breaks in the following set. In a key first game of the third set, Nadal recovered from a 0-30 deficit and saved three break points – completing a 16-minute opening game with a forehand crosscourt winner – and then claimed a 2-0 lead in the next game when a Djokovic forehand hit the net tape and landed wide. Djokovic reclaimed a break of serve to make it 2-1, but Nadal flexed his muscles and won four straight games – dropping just three points – to wrap up victory in two hours and 44 minutes. Read Full Match Report

2009 Davis Cup World Group First Round, Spain vs Serbia, Fourth Rubber, Nadal d. Djokovic 64 64 61
In their first meeting in Davis Cup competition, the Spaniard prevailed in straight sets in Benidorm to clinch the first round victory for the defending Davis Cup champions. Nadal improved to 12-1 lifetime in Davis Cup singles play, including a 10-0 mark on clay. The Spaniard has won 15 of 16 sets on clay against the Serb.

2008 Olympic Games Beijing Semi-finals, hard, Nadal d. Djokovic 64 16 64
Three days before Rafael Nadal became the 24th player to rank No. 1 in the history of the South African Airways ATP Rankings, the Spaniard sealed his 69th win of the year after defeating Novak Djokovic 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in two hours and 10 minutes at the Olympic Green Tennis Center. The match finished at 12:22 a.m. local time. Djokovic saved one match point on serve at 30/40, 4-5 in the deciding set with a powerful forehand. But Nadal was not to be denied, as a couple of minutes later Djokovic missed a smash at the net on Nadal's second match point. Nadal hit 13 winners and committed 46 unforced errors in total, compared to 18 winners and 52 unforced errors for Djokovic. Nadal went on to clinch the gold medal over Fernando Gonzalez, while Djokovic won the bronze medal over James Blake.

Nadal2008 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters Semi-finals, ATP Masters Series Cincinnati, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 61 75
Novak Djokovic ended Rafael Nadal's 32-match winning streak with a 6-1, 7-5 semifinal victory in one hour and 25 minutes. The loss meant Nadal would officially become the No. 1 for the first time in the South African Airways ATP Rankings on August 18. Djokovic jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the opening set before closing it out in 26 minutes. The Serbian hit 11 winners to Nadal's two and won 16 of 20 points on his own serve in the first set. In the second set, Nadal's only break point came in the sixth game but Djokovic saved it. He broke Nadal in the 11th game at 15/40 and then served out the match, hitting a forehand volley winner on match point. It was Nadal's first loss in nearly three months since he fell to countryman Juan Carlos Ferrero in the opening round of ATP Masters Series Rome on May 7. Read Full Match Report

2008 The Artois Championships Final, ATP International Series, Queen's Club London, grass, Nadal d. Djokovic 76(6) 75
In front of a packed Centre Court crowd at The Queen’s Club in west London, four-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic 7-6(6), 7-5 in a thrilling final of the highest quality, a fitting way to celebrate 30 years of the event. Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Gloucester presented the Spaniard with his fifth trophy of the season and his third in succession following wins in Hamburg and Roland Garros. With the win, Nadal became the first reigning French Open champion to win at The Queen’s Club since Ilie Nastase in 1973 and the first Spaniard to win here since Andres Gimeno in 1960. He was also the first Spaniard to win a grass court title since Gimeno won in Eastbourne in 1972. Read Full Match Report

2008 Roland Garros Semi-finals, Grand Slam, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 64 62 76(3)
Three-time defending champion Rafael Nadal tightened his grip on the No. 2 spot in the South African Airways ATP Rankings by extending his Roland Garros record to 27-0 with a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(3) win over No. 3-ranked Novak Djokovic in two hours and 49 minutes. Nadal became the first man since Ivan Lendl from 1984-1987 to reach four consecutive finals, and just the third man in the Open Era to do so. Djokovic was unable to generate any break points on Nadal’s serve throughout the first set and, with his attacking play nullified by great defense from Nadal, he went on to lose the first set 6-4 after 57 minutes. The Spaniard closed out the set 6-2 with a forehand winner after 91 minutes, and put the match out of Djokovic’s reach by going up a double break in the third set. Djokovic fought back and had a chance to win his first set against the Spaniard at Roland Garros when he earned a set point after an effective return in the 12th game. However, Nadal denied him and went on to take the match on the tie-break. Read Full Match Report

Nadal2008 Masters Series Hamburg presented by EON Hanse Semi-finals, ATP Masters Series Hamburg, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 75 26 62
Rafael Nadal came out on top in the battle for the No. 2 position in the South African Airways ATP Rankings with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Novak Djokovic in a titanic battle over three hours and three minutes. It was the greatest match of their rivalry to date. In a first set featuring five breaks of serve under the roof on Center Court, Djokovic began in blistering form, breaking Nadal early to lead 3-0. The pressure began to tell on Djokovic, and Nadal broke back to lead 5-4. However, with Nadal serving for the set, Djokovic relaxed, went for his shots and it paid off as he leveled for 5-5. With the atmosphere rising, 2007 finalist Nadal found more outstanding tennis and a forehand pass broke Djokovic’s serve again and gave Nadal the 6-5 lead. This time Nadal did not falter and he served it out after 72 minutes. Both men continued to produce their finest tennis for much of the second set, before Djokovic was able to edge out a break of serve to lead 3-2 with some deep, aggressive hitting bullying Nadal into errors. With Nadal serving at 2-5, 15-30, a reflex volley from Djokovic set up two set points and the pressure told on Nadal as he put a forehand wide for Djokovic to level the match. Nadal immediately earned a break of serve in the third set. After failing to convert break back chances, Djokovic’s resistance began to crumble. Read Full Match Report

2008 Pacific Life Open Semi-finals, ATP Masters Series Indian Wells, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 63 62
In a semifinal full of long, spectacular rallies, Novak Djokovic struck eight aces and 20 winners to 11 for defending champion Rafael Nadal in a 6-3, 6-2 win in one hour and 28 minutes. Nadal, who struggled on serve throughout the match, secured an early break of serve but Djokovic fought back to level for 2-2 and broke again for 5-3 with a net cord winner. Djokovic won the final four games. "I had very tough matches in the rounds before, very tight matches," Nadal said. "You have to be 100%. [Djokovic] played, for sure, less hours on the court than me, easier matches."

2007 Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai Round Robin, year-end ATP Championships, Shanghai, hard, Nadal d. Djokovic 64 64
Rafael Nadal needed to beat Novak Djokovic in straight sets in order to secure a semifinal berth, and was in combative mood from the start. "I play very, very good match – the best match here, and one of the best matches of the indoor season," said Nadal, after the 6-4, 6-4 win in one hour and 44 minutes. "I play very, very complete match." Unable to clinch a semifinal berth, Djokovic tried throughout – hitting nine aces – but was eventually outclassed.

2007 Rogers Cup Semi-finals, ATP Masters Series Montreal, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 75 63
Novak Djokovic enjoyed his career-best tournament to date by becoming the first player since Boris Becker at Stockholm in 1994 to defeat the Top 3 players in the ATP Rankings at the same tournament. Having knocked out No. 3-ranked Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals, the Serbian overcame No. 2 and 2005 Montreal champion Rafael Nadal 7-5, 6-3 in one hour and 50 minutes. Djokovic saved all eight break point he faced. In his third straight ATP Masters Series final in North America, Djokovic defeated World No. 1 Roger Federer.

2007 Wimbledon Semi-finals, Grand Slam, London, grass, Nadal d. Djokovic 36 61 41 ret. (left toe)
Rafael Nadal reached his fifth career Grand Slam final after fourth seed Novak Djokovic retired due to severe blisters on his left toe. Nadal was leading 3-6, 6-1, 4-1 with one hour and 41 minutes on the clock. Djokovic did not look fully fit, after two epic victories over Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth round and Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinals. Nadal began the match sluggishly dropping his opening service game to hand his opponent a 2-0 lead, which Djokovic capitalised on with the first set in 37 minutes. World No. 5 Djokovic dropped his serve twice in the second and sixth games of the second set, which Nadal clinched in 35 minutes. The trainer was then called at one set apiece to bandage a blister on the little toe of Djokovic’s left foot. The Serbian attempted to play on but, after being broken in the third and fifth games of the set, decided to call a halt at his fifth career grass-court event.

2007 Roland Garros Semi-finals, Grand Slam, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 75 64 62
Both started the semifinal as the only ATP players to have broken the 40-win plateau on the season. Novak Djokovic, a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist, challenged Rafael Nadal in the 66-minute first set as he came from down two breaks to get back on serve at five games all. But Nadal promptly closed the set as he won the next two games. Djokovic had an opportunity to take the 2-0 lead in the next set, but Nadal saved three break points and never looked back. He converted on three of his remaining four break chances in the match to cement the 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 win in two hours and 28 minutes. The Spaniard went on to become the second player in Roland Garros history (since 1925) to win three consecutive titles in Paris.

2007 Internazionali BNL d'Italia Quarter-finals, ATP Masters Series Rome, hard, Nadal d. Djokovic 62 63
Back on his beloved clay, two-time defending champion Rafael Nadal produced a devastating display to beat Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and 41 minutes. "I'm playing at my best level for sure," Nadal said after extending his Open Era record winning streak to 77 matches. "It was a very nice match. We were playing at 100 percent every point. Djokovic is very, very good player. He didn't play a bad match today. He served very well on the break points - unbelievable. Every time he beat me with the serve. But finally I played consistently, and that's decisive."

2007 Sony Ericsson Open Quarter-finals, ATP Masters Series Miami, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 63 64
"I have to say that this is the biggest, and probably the most important victory in my career, and he's the best player I ever won against," said Novak Djokovic, after avenging his Pacific Life Open final defeat with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Rafael Nadal in the Miami quarterfinals. "Coming from Indian Wells finals, I learned a lot of things... Today I was really motivated. I didn't have anything to lose. I'm making some unbelievable results in the last couple of months. I'm in great shape, feeling really confident on the court." Djokovic, who saved three break points in the final game to record his second Top 10 win of the year – after beating Tommy Robredo in the Rotterdam quarterfinals in February – rose to a career-high No. 7.

2007 Pacific Life Open Final, ATP Masters Series Indian Wells, hard, Nadal d. Djokovic 62 75
Rafael returned to top form by capturing his first title since lifting his second Roland Garros crown in June 2006. The 20-year-old Spaniard won the first nine points and 16 of the first 18 points against Novak Djokovic, who lost his serve three times. "This is one of the best wins for me," said Nadal, who won 6-2, 7-5 in one hour and 34 minutes. "It is a strange feeling to come here and win without losing a set. I won against a great player." As a result Djokovic rose three spots to No. 10 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings.

2006 Roland Garros Quarter-finals, Grand Slam, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 64 64 ret. (thigh, back)
Defending champion Rafael Nadal struggled with his serve, but Novak Djokovic was never 100 per cent fit and attempted to keep the points short throughout his maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal. Nadal, who led Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, notched his 58th consecutive clay-court victory when the World No. 63 retired with a back and thigh injury after one hour and 54 minutes. Nadal extended his perfect Roland Garros record to 12-0 and stood two wins away from a century of career wins (98-12) on crushed brick.

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