Djokovic ends Nadal’s streak

The Serb sweeps the Spa­niard, who loses for only the sec­ond time in 72 matches at Roland Gar­ros.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS -

PARIS — There was no tro­phy, and no ti­tle, on of­fer for No­vak Djokovic at Court Philippe Cha­trier.

Per­haps there should have been, con­sid­er­ing what he ac­com­plished. Thor­oughly out­play­ing the best there’s ever been on red clay, Djokovic ended Rafael Nadal’s 39-match French Open win­ning streak Wed­nes­day by beat­ing the nine-time cham­pion in a sur­pris­ingly lop­sided quar­ter­fi­nal, 7-5, 6-3, 6-1.

“A match,” Djokovic said, “that I will re­mem­ber for a long time.”

It was Nadal’s sec­ond de­feat in 72 ca­reer matches at Roland Gar­ros — and sec­ond in 95 best-of-fiveset matches any­where on the sur­face.

The other came in the fourth round in Paris in 2009 against Robin Soder­ling.

Be­fore that, Nadal won four cham­pi­onships in a row. And since? Nadal col­lected a record five con­sec­u­tive French Open ti­tles.

“I lost in 2009, and [it] was not the end,” Nadal said. “I lost in 2015, and [it] is not the end.”

The No. 1-ranked Djokovic lost all six previous matches they’d played in Paris, in­clud­ing the 2012 and 2014 fi­nals.

But Djokovic’s de­fense al­lowed Nadal only three win­ners off his heavy top­spin lefty fore­hand, one of the most feared shots in ten­nis. With his coach, Boris Becker, jump­ing out of his seat to ap­plaud, Djokovic con­jured up 45 win­ners to only 16 for Nadal, who turned 29 Wed­nes­day.

“He was bet­ter than me,” Nadal said. “That’s it.”

Ap­pro­pri­ate for a match that did not live up to the hype, the quar­ter­fi­nal closed with a whim­per on a dou­ble fault by Nadal.

In Fri­day’s semi­fi­nals, the 28year-old Serb will meet No. 3 Andy Mur­ray, who elim­i­nated 2013 run­ner-up David Fer­rer, 7-6 (4), 6-2, 5-7, 6-1. Stan Wawrinka will play Jo-Wil­fried Tsonga in the other semi­fi­nal.

The 44th in­stall­ment of Djokovic-Nadal was merely a quar­ter­fi­nal be­cause Nadal’s rank­ing has slipped so much he was seeded sixth. The 14-time ma­jor cham­pion missed time last sea­son with a right wrist in­jury, then had ap­pen­dix surgery.

He has spo­ken openly about a cri­sis in con­fi­dence from poor-for-him re­sults in 2015: Wed­nes­day’s loss was his sixth on clay, his most in a year since 2003. When the rank­ings come out Monday, he’ll be no bet­ter than 10th, his worst spot since 2005.

Djokovic, who won his eighth Slam ti­tle at Jan­uary’s Aus­tralian Open, owns a 27-match win­ning streak.

“You need to play very well to stand a chance against him, and the truth is that Rafael did not play at his best,” said Toni Nadal, who coaches his nephew.

Af­ter 15 min­utes, Djokovic led 4-0, tak­ing 18 of the first 22 points, in­clud­ing one 19-stroke delight in which both men sprinted to track down lobs.

Then, Nadal snapped to it, but he had to save three set points while trail­ing 5-4, then another two at 6-5, de­spite miss­ing an easy over­head early in the game. Djokovic con­verted his sixth chance, break­ing Nadal to seize the first set.

Christophe Ena As­so­ci­ated Press

NO­VAK DJOKOVIC, above, had 45 win­ners in the quar­ter­fi­nal. Rafael Nadal had just 16.

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