The 2015 Monte Carlo Masters has a match for the ages on Saturdy when Number 5 ranked Rafael Nadal goes up against his friendly rival number 1 ranked Novak Djokovic. The two will be meeting on the courts for their 43rd time, and they are both playing for keeps. Djokovic has been easily swiping everyone out of his path at this Open ready to continue breaking records while Rafi has gotten his second wind this year and is just as ready to get back to top form.
While some media outlets have really tried hard to create a bitter rivalry story between the Spaniard and the Serb, it just doesn’t exist. The two know that they push each other to play harder, and when one finally retires, the other will be shortly behind him.
Their last meeting came on clay in the 2014 Roland Garros final, where Nadal snapped a four-match losing streak against Djokovic to claim his ninth crown in Paris, retain the No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking and prevent his Serbian rival from completing the career Grand Slam.
Nadal also improved to a 14-4 clay-court record against the Serb, including 6-0 at Roland Garros, and to 23-19 in their overall FedEx ATP Head2Head series. They hold the record for the most meetings between two players in the Open Era, eclipsing the mark previously held by Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe.
They last faced each other in Monte-Carlo in 2013, where Djokovic prevailed 6-2, 7-6(1) to win his first title at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000. The pair also clashed in the 2012 final in Monaco, which Nadal won 6-3, 6-1.
Here is a history of Rafael Nadal & Novak Djokovic’s 42 career meetings.
2014 Roland Garros, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 36 75 62 64
Nadal prevented Djokovic from completing a career Grand Slam, as he retained his No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking and became the first player in history to win nine titles at a major. He also drew level with Pete Sampras at No. 2 in the Grand Slam title-leaders list on 14 major crowns.
The Spaniard had lost eight of his past nine sets against Djokovic entering the Roland Garros final, and once again fell behind to start the match as Djokovic broke in the eighth game and survived a pair of break points. Though the winner of the first set had gone on to triumph nine times in their 11 previous Grand Slam meetings, a free-swinging Nadal drew level at a set apiece with a break and quickly raced out to a 3-0 lead in the third. The Serbian found renewed energy in the fourth set, recovering a break in the seventh game, but was unable to hold serve to stay in the match as he double-faulted on championship point.
2014 Internazionali BNL d’Italia Final, Rome, clay, Djokovic d. Nadal 46 63 63
Djokovic pulled closer to Nadal in the battle for No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings by claiming his third Rome title and 19th at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 level. It was the Serb’s second triumph over his rival in a Rome final, having prevailed in the 2011 title match.
Nadal entered their 41st encounter having spent over 10 hours on court through the semi-finals, but the seven-time champion showed no signs of fatigue in the early stages. He would surge to a double-break lead in the first set behind a ferocious offensive onslaught, and held on to take the opener in 46 minutes. In their previous 10 meetings, the player who had won the first set went on to win the match. Djokovic was ready to buck the trend, finding his range and rhythm in the second and third sets and turning the tables with a tenacious attacking display. He would hold Nadal to winning under 28 per cent of second serve points won for the rest of the match, firing return winners with ease and standing tall on the baseline. Djokovic’s 46 winners (including 15 from the backhand side) and six aces were too much for Nadal to overcome.
2014 Sony Open Tennis Final, Miami, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 63 63
There were milestones on the line for both players when they came together in their 40th meeting. Djokovic s looking to win the Indian Wells-Miami double for the second time (also 2011) and Nadal was hoping to get his hands on the Miami crown that had thus far eluded him in three previous finals.
Djokovic had won his past two contests with Nadal, since losing the US Open final, and, after saving a break point in the first game, produced a devastating display that the Spaniard had no answer to. As he raced to victory at Crandon Park for the fourth time, Djokovic broke Nadal three times, wrapping up the match in 84 minutes. Nadal was unable to make inroads in his counterpart’s serve in the second set, winning just four of 21 return points. He uncharacteristically hit 11 forehand unforced errors in the match, while Djokovic fired 22 total winners, including five off the backhand wing.
2013 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, London, hard indoors, Djokovic d. Nadal 63 64
Undefeated in 21 matches since his loss to Nadal in the US Open final, Djokovic pierced Nadal’s defences early on in his third season-ending final, breaking to 15 in the second game. Nadal battled to keep the set competitive, recovering the break, but a double fault at 3-4, 30/30, put him back in trouble with Djokovic smothering the net to break serve.
Djokovic tightened his grip on the match when he broke Nadal in the third game of the second set. He created his first match point opportunity in the ninth game, when Nadal lunged too far for a backhand down the line. The Spaniard saved it at 30/40. Despite falling from 30/0 to 30/30, the World No. 2 held his nerve and clinched his third match point chance when Nadal hit a forehand wide.
2013 China Open Final, Beijing, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 63 64
Following a pair of hard court defeats to Nadal during the summer, an inspired Djokovic exacted revenge in straight sets and without facing a break point. The Serb stretched his undefeated mark at the China Open to 19-0 with the win, capturing his fourth title in Beijing and snapping Nadal’s perfect hard court winning streak in 2013 at 26 straight matches.
Djokovic was dominant on serve, winning 90 per cent of first serve points and holding Nadal to just six return points won. He broke the Spaniard in his first service game and never looked back, breaking again early in the second set and closing out the match in 87 minutes. The victory came a day after Djokovic relinquished the No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking to Nadal. It was the Belgrade native’s fourth tour-level crown of the season and first since dethroning Nadal for the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title in April. The loss was only Nadal’s fourth of the year as the Mallorca native was playing in his 13th final in 14 tournaments on the ATP World Tour in 2013.
2013 US Open Final, Grand Slam, New York, hard, Nadal d. Djokovic 62 36 64 61
In their third US Open final meeting (also 2010-11) and an Open Era record 37th meeting, Nadal exerted the early pressure, but it was Djokovic who turned the tables in the sixth game of the second set. The intensity rose early in the third set, as Djokovic broke Nadal in the third game only for Nadal to bounce back for 3-3 and ultimately break once again. Nadal stretched his lead to 3-0 in the fourth set and by the time he celebrated his 13th major crown, Djokovic had committed 53 unforced errors. Spaniard dominated the extended rallies of five shots or more, winning 64 of 111 such points. The World No. 2 was lethal in the return game as well, converting on seven of 12 break point chances. Queen Sofia of Spain congratulated Nadal in the locker room after winning his second US Open crown.
2013 Coupe Rogers SF, Montreal, hard, Nadal d. Djokovic 64 36 76(2)
With both players locked in a months-long fight for the year-end No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking, the Coupe Rogers semi-final in August betweenNovak Djokovic and Rafael Nadaltook on added significance. Nadal entered with an eight-match hard-court winning streak, while Djokovic played what he called “as close to perfection as you can be” in a quarter-final rout ofRichard Gasquet the day before. It would be their 36th overall meeting, which tied Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe for the most in the Open Era. The match began with an immediate break of serve by Nadal, who capitalised on a few ill-timed Djokovic double faults to race out to the early lead. Djokovic’s forehand was uncharacteristically misfiring in the early stages and Nadal took full advantage.
The Serb would fight back, however, leveling the match at a set apiece with a late break, reeling off five straight points from 40/0 down. The match would come down to a deciding tie-break, with Nadal quickly opening a 6-0 lead and converting on his third match point. The Spaniard would advance to his 36th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final, in which he would chase his fourth such title of the year. He hoisted the trophy in Indian Wells, Madrid and Rome. The loss snapped Djokovic’s streak of 13 consecutive match victories at the Coupe Rogers, having won the previous two titles there.
2013 Roland Garros SF, Grand Slam, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 64 36 61 67(3) 97
Both players were competing for a shot at history. Djokovic was attempting to have a shot at winning his first Roland Garros crown, which would make him the eighth man in tennis history to complete the career Grand Slam. Nadal was going for an eighth title in Paris. Djokovic had dealt Nadal a harsh defeat in their previous meeting at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, where he ended the Spaniard’s 46-match winning streak at the event. Did it weigh on Nadal’s mind? The Spaniard was two points from victory when he led 6-5, 30/15 in the fourth set, but he tightened up and Djokovic fought back into contention. Nadal then came back from a 2-4 deficit in the drama-filled fifth set, which lasted 87 minutes, to give the match an enthralling finish. The semi-final last four hours and 37 minutes and kept alive Nadal’s 21-match winning streak. It was only the second five-set match Nadal had played at the major, with the first being a first-round win over John Isner in 2011.
2013 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters Final, ATP World Tour Masters 1000, Monte-Carlo, clay, Djokovic d. Nadal 62 76(1)
Djokovic didn’t think he would compete at the tournament due to a foot injury. By the time he reached the final for the third time (also 2009, 2012), the World No. 1 was firing on all cylinders. Nadal, the eight-time defending champion, who was on a 46-match winning streak at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, had been equally as impressive. Their 34th FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting had all the ingredients of a classic. Djokovic raced into a 5-0 lead, dropping just 12 points. When he converted his eighth set point to clinch the 48-minute opener, the crowd started to wonder if Nadal’s reign was about to end. In a high-quality second set, which included fourth breaks of serve, both players showed great mental strength. But it was Djokovic who remained cool in the tie-break to win his 14 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title and 37th trophy overall. The one-hour and 52-minte victory also meant that Djokovic has become the first player to beat Nadal three times in a clay-court final. He also ended Nadal’s 81-match winning streak on clay in the month of April. His last loss on clay in April had come on 8 April 2005 to Igor Andreev in the Valencia quarter-finals.
2012 Roland Garros Final, Grand Slam, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 64 63 26 75
The two were meeting for the fourth time at Roland Garros, with Nadal taking their previous three Paris clashes in straight sets. Djokovic was appearing in the final for the first time. In a final that was played over two days due to several rain delays, Nadal hit 34 winners to 29 unforced errors, and led two sets and a break before the Serbian rallied to win eight consecutive games en route to clinching his first set over Nadal at the tournament. He took a 2-1 break lead before play was suspended for the day on 10 June. When played resumed on Monday, Nadal broke back to level at 2-all and went on to wrap up the final victory in three hours and 49 minutes after Djokovic hit his fourth double fault to end the match. Djokovic was looking to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam championship titles. Nadal improved to 3-0 against Djokovic on clay in 2012.
2012 Internazionali BNL d’Italia Final, ATP World Tour Masters 1000, Rome, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 75 63
The pair contested the final at the Foro Italico for the third time, with Nadal coming out on top to avenge the defeat he had suffered at Djokovic’s hands a year earlier. With the final rained off on Sunday, it was below brighter skies on Monday that the pair took to court. Djokovic was under immediate pressure from Nadal. The Serb, who had beaten Roger Federer in the semi-finals, saved two break points in his opening service game before Nadal converted his fourth opportunity to lead 3-2. Djokovic immediately recovered the service break, but was broken by Nadal again in the 11th game, after a scintillating exchange at the net, and the Spaniard sealed the opener. Nadal was quick to capitalise on his momentum, taking advantage of an increased unforced error count by Djokovic and dominating from the baseline as he broke in the first game of the second set. Djokovic squandered four break back points in the following game, and another in the fourth game, before surrendering the match in the ninth game after two hours and 20 minutes with his fourth double fault.
2012 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters Final, ATP World Tour Masters 1000, Monte-Carlo, clay, Nadal d. Djokovic 63 61
Second-ranked Rafael Nadal ended a seven-match losing streak to World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, dropping just four games to win his eighth straight title in Monte-Carlo. The Spaniard converted five breaks and won 85 per cent of his first serve points to seal the final victory in 79 minutes. He did not drop a set during the tournament.
2012 Australian Open Final, Grand Slam, Melbourne, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 57 64 62 67(5) 75
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic extended his winning streak to seven straight matches over No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal in the longest Grand Slam championship final on record over five hours and 53 minutes. It surpassed the previous record of four hours and 54 minutes when Mats Wilanderdefeated Ivan Lendl at the 1988 US Open. In a pulsating contest on Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Djokovic rallied from a 2-4 deficit in the fifth set, to fight back and claim a dramatic victory. He continued to narrow the gap in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with the Spaniard to 14-16. Nadal had never previously lost a Grand Slam final after winning the first set.
2011 US Open Final, Grand Slam, New York, hard, Djokovic d. Nadal 62 64 67(3) 61
World No. 1 Novak Djokovicclaimed his third Grand Slam title of the season and his first at the US Open when he defeated defending championRafael Nadal 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-1 in a rematch of the 2010 final. With the victory, Djokovic improved to a 6-0 mark against the Spaniard in finals this season. The pair showed what was in store for the final, with their hard-hitting rallies averaging 10 strokes in the opening game. In both the first two sets Nadal led by a break of serve, and both times Djokovic came roaring back, putting Nadal under constant pressure with his retrieval skills on the baseline and his clever use of the angles, drawing the errors from the Spaniard’s racquet. Ten-time major champion Nadal showed his mettle in the third set, winning it in a tie-break after Djokovic had served for the match at 6-5. However, the Spaniard could not maintain his high level and with both men tiring in the intense contest, it was Nadal whose resistance broke down first and Djokovic broke serve twice to claim victory in four hours and nine minutes. The 24 year old became the sixth man in the Open Era to win three major titles in the same season.
2011 Wimbledon Final, Grand Slam, London, grass, Djokovic d. Nadal 64 61 16 63
The current World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 titlist, met the soon-to-be No. 1Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final. For two sets, Djokovic was superb hitting 22 winners past Nadal, who was unable to hit top form in lengthy baseline rallies. But Nadal hasn’t won 20 straight matches at the All England Club for nothing. The top seed battled back to win the third set to raise hopes of a first two-sets-to-love comeback in a Wimbledon final since 1927, when Henri Cochet defeated Bill Tilden. Both players exchanged breaks of serve at the start of the fourth set, before Djokovic regained control to complete a 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 victory in two hours and 28 minutes of play to lift his third Grand Slam championship title. It capped a dream fortnight for the Serbian, who will become No. 1 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings on 4 July.
2011 Internazionali BNL d’Italia Final, ATP World Tour Masters 1000, Rome, clay, Djokovic d. Nadal 64 64
One day after a thrilling semi-final win over Andy Murray, Novak Djokovicdefeated defending champion Rafael Nadal for a second consecutive Sunday in a clay-court ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final. The Serbian broke the World No. 1 four times – including the final games of the first and second sets – to become just the second player (Davydenko) to record four straight victories against the Spaniard. He also became the first player to win four Masters 1000 titles in one season since Nadal and Roger Federer claimed four apiece in 2005. On Saturday evening, Djokovic had come within two points of defeat before rallying to defeat Murray in a third-set tie-break. His streak of 39 successive tour-level victories following the Rome final was the sixth-longest winning streak in the Open Era.
2011 Mutua Madrid Open Final, ATP World Tour Masters 1000, Madrid, clay, Djokovic d. Nadal 75 64
Novak Djokovic notched his 34th consecutive victory as he brought to an end Rafael Nadal’s 37-match unbeaten run on clay by beating the defending champion 7-5, 6-4 in the final of the Mutua Madrid Open. Despite never having beaten Nadal on clay in nine previous attempts, Djokovic raced out to a 4-0 lead in the Masters 1000 final. Nadal fought back and broke the Serbian to bring himself back level in the ninth game, but Djokovic claimed the opening set three games later. After recovering a service break early in the second set, Djokovic broke Nadal again in the final game to seal victory in two hours and 17 minutes. “Under the circumstances, I’ve played probably the best match of my life on clay against the World No. 1 and the player to beat on this surface,” declared Djokovic.