Novak Djokovic on Roland Garros defeat to Rafael Nadal: ‘He showed why he’s a great champion’

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the end of the match

Novak Djokovic is proud of the way he fought against Rafael Nadal, but believes the Spaniard deserved the win as he was able to take his tennis to a new level when he was up against it.

In Episode 59 of their classic rivalry, it was Nadal who came out on top in a slugfest quarter-final match at the French Open as he won 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) in over four hours on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

It was brutal as many of the games lasted more than 10 minutes, but Nadal usually had answers for the questions posed by Djokovic.

After running away with the first set, Nadal opened a 3-0 lead in the second with two breaks, but Djokovic bounced back to take the set. However, the Spaniard dominated the third set before finding himself 2-5 down in the fourth only to break late and then take the tie-breaker.

World No 1 Djokovic says he lost to the better player on the day.

“Congratulations to Nadal. He was a better player I think in important moments,” the Serbian said.

“[He] started very well. I didn’t start so great, 2-6, 0-3, double break down. I was gaining momentum as I was coming back in the second set, managed to win the second set, and I thought, I’m back in the game.

“But then he had another two, three fantastic games at the beginning of the third. He was just able to take his tennis to another level in those, particularly moments at the beginning of all sets except the fourth… he showed why he’s a great champion.

“Staying there mentally tough and finishing the match the way he did… congrats to him and his team. No doubt he deserved it.”

Djokovic, who was once again booed by the Parisian crowd, was pleased with the fighting qualities he showed.

“I’m proud of fighting and staying until the last shot. As I said, I lost to a better player today. Had my chances. Didn’t use them. That’s it. Over four hours’ battle and I have to accept this defeat.”

Nadal will face Alexander Zverev for a place in the final after the German defeated rising star Carlos Alcaraz in four sets.