Novak Djokovic is on the brink of finally completing a Career Slam after defeating his nemesis Rafael Nadal in the last eight of the French Open 7-5 6-3 6-1. Andy Murray is next to the try and stop the irrepressible world no.1
Talk of Djokovic’s and Nadal’s potential titanic meeting has dominated the sport’s coverage over the last few months but the event itself was a one-sided affair and one that the Serb didn’t look like losing pretty much from the first serve.
The pair have enjoyed scintillating matches in Grand Slam finals in the past, including another at the Roland Garros final 12 months ago, though they weren’t given the chance to battle it out on the main stage this time around after the seedings ensured they would meet early; and this match will certainly not make the highlights reel of their best moments, despite the significance of it.
It has been no secret, Djokovic and Nadal have had a very different few months. The former is seemingly unbeaten and hell-bent on finally winning this competition, while the man who is usually there to stop him has been beset by injuries and poor form.
Anything can happen at a Grand Slam, but form trumped prestige in their quarter-final.
Nadal was simply short of the quality that has seen him crowned ‘The King of Clay’, and he wasn’t able to compensate for his shortcomings with determination and fight – though it wasn’t for the lack of trying. In the end he cut a despondent figure on his 29th birthday.
It was a shock when Robin Soderling beat Nadal in 2009 in this competition, for the first and only time, until today, but this result had been coming when you previewed the match with your head rather than heart.
It didn’t ever feel like it would be a Djokovic v Nadal classic, probably because it was a quarter-final.
Tournament organisers got the match that they deserved when making Nadal a sixth seed and thereby ensuing they wouldn’t meet in the final – it looked like first versus sixth, so perhaps they got it right after all, at least viewers around the world wouldn’t be left with the current feeling of massive anti-climax.
After breaking the Spaniard’s very first service game, Djokovic never released his iron-fist grip on the contest and in truth it was an all too easy win over a man who has won all but one French Open title since he was a teenager.
Where does Nadal go from here though? That will be the question he, his fans and entourage will ask in the coming weeks. He’s a former Wimbledon champion, but he’s struggled on the grass in the last couple of years and clay is supposed to be the surface on which he reigns.
Game, set, match
Djokovic, meanwhile, will have to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory now. Murray is this year’s surprise package, but surely the Scot will need a miracle to beat his semi-final opponent for the first time since 2013.
Something major will have to happen between now and Sunday for it to be any other man holding aloft the trophy in front of the Eiffel Tower in front of photographers come Monday morning.