Rafael Nadal French Open 2021 Djokovic

Preview: Will Djokovic or Nadal win French Open semi-final showdown?

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will do battle for an astounding 58th time when they meet in the semi-finals of the 2021 French Open.

The legendary duo will play out the latest instalment of their rivalry on Court Philippe Chatrier, after the conclusion of the first semi-final between Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“We are living the sport for these moments,” Nadal said of the matchup.

Djokovic commented: “It’s not like any other match. Let’s face it, it’s the biggest challenge that you can have, playing on clay against Nadal, on this court.”

The great rivalry in numbers

It is the longest rivalry in men’s tennis history in number of matches played, and second longest overall behind the Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova series – which spanned 80 matches.

The pair have faced off on 26 occasions on clay – with Nadal holding a significant 19-7 advantage.

Eight of those encounters came at Roland Garros – of which, the Spaniard has won seven including the 2020 title match.

Nadal has never lost a French Open semi-final or final – and has beaten the Serbian three times in finals, twice in semi-finals, and twice in quarter-finals.

Djokovic’s only victory over the 35-year-old came in the last eight in 2015.

In terms of French Open titles won, No. 3 seed Nadal has claimed an unprecedented 13 – with the first coming in 2005 and the most recent last year.

Djokovic lifted La Coupe des Mousquetaires for the only time in 2016 to complete the career Grand Slam.

Route to the semi-finals

Top seed Djokovic has lost three sets in his five matches so far – all coming against Italian opposition.

The 34-year-old saw off Tennys Sandgren, Pablo Cuevas and Ricardas Berankis in straight sets – before coming from 2-0 down in sets to beat Lorenzo Musetti in the last 16.

He then battled past No. 9 seed Matteo Berrettini in a tough four-set last eight clash.

No. 3 seed Nadal has dropped a single set on his way to the last four – in his four-set quarter-final triumph over 10th seed Diego Schwartzman.

Before that, he defeated Alexei Popyrin, Richard Gasquet, Cameron Norrie, and Jannik Sinner.

The Spaniard saved set points in the third set against Popyrin in the first round, and survived Sinner serving for the opening set in the fourth round.

Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.