In 2005, a promising young teenager namely Rafael Nadal or Rafa (as his fans know him) from Spain won his very first grand slam title – French Open, defeating Argentine Mariano Ruben Puerta. What followed next is an epic story.
The Spaniard who is regarded as the “King of Clay” due to his unprecedented record on this particular surface, went on to win 70 out of 71 matches in Paris, letting him grab 9 of his 14 grand slam titles here. No one could stand a chance against him, not even Roger Federer who is regarded as the greatest tennis player ever.
In a few years time, with his first grand slam win in 2008 in Australia, 20-year-old Serbian, Novak Djokovic rose to fame. His dauntless attitude, fighting spirit, and great retrieving skills seemed to be fruitful ways to stop the invincible Rafa.
The two, Rafa and Novak who were born one year apart, has played 43 times until now that is more than any other players have played in the Open era. The Spaniard has the advantage of 23-20.
On Wednesday, these two will meet again for the 44th time. However, the only sad part is that it’s too early.
Due to Rafa’s poor performance from the beginning of the year his rank has gone down to 7, making him face his nemesis, Novak Djokovic in the quarter finals only. A lot promises to be on stake, including a chance to meet Andy Murray or David Ferrer in the semis, but this showdown is something that both the players were looking forward to, let alone the whole tennis world.
Rafa is currently not in his inevitable form while Novak on the other hand is not just world number one, but playing like it. He has won five titles in 2015 while Rafa is yet to clinch one.
Fresh from his win over Nadal in the semi finals of Monte Carlo Masters, Djokovic looks to have got the answers of overcoming the Spaniard. His backhand shots and forehand down the lines are looking great, and so is his confidence that he is brimming with.
According to a report by BBC, while talking about his upcoming clash against Nadal, Djokovic, said, “Of course it is a different approach mentally when you play Nadal in quarter-finals than any other player.”
He added: “I know what I need to do to have a chance to win. That doesn’t mean that I will win. The future is unpredictable.”
Nadal on the other hand looks at this match as “the toughest quarter- final he has ever had to play here.”
However he emphasized on the fact that this match is just a ‘quarter final’. According to a report by The Independent, Nadal said: “This is not the final, you know. It’s a quarter-final. The winner will not be the champion of Roland Garros. That makes a big difference. Even if it’s a special match, it’s still a quarter-final.”
It’s hard to predict who has a shot to book a place in the semi finals. Novak might be playing fantastic tennis, but Rafa has a tournament record in Paris, en route to claiming which he had defeated Novak six out of six times they faced each other, including last year’s final.
No matter what, such an early collision of two of the greatest players of Open Era means elimination of either one of them, and that is certainly a loss for all teenis lovers.