Men's Match of Decade No. 9: Nadal d. Djokovic, 2013 Roland Garros

Men's Match of Decade No. 9: Nadal d. Djokovic, 2013 Roland Garros

Momentum shifted rapidly, as each man took a punch and came out swinging again, before the Spaniard prevailed, 6–4, 3–6, 6–1, 6–7 (3), 9–7.

Big Three. Big ballers. Big scores. The 2010s were defined by giant-sized contents on the men's side, which we'll review over the next two weeks.

See the entire men's and women's lists here, and relive each match with our video retrospectives.

There are many remarkable aspects to Rafael Nadal’s domination at Roland Garros: his 93–2 record; his 12 titles in 15 years; his 12–1 mark against Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Perhaps most impressive, though, is how few close matches he has been forced to play. Rafa not only always wins in Paris, he wins easily.

The one great, glaring exception came in the 2013 semifinals, when Djokovic pushed Nadal to the limit—mentally, physically, emotionally—and then a few games beyond. In 2006, the Serb had declared Nadal “beatable” in Paris, and after nine years of trying, he would indeed beat him there in 2015. But not before Nadal made this brilliant, desperate defense of his red-clay turf.

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Over the course of four hours and 37 minutes, momentum shifted rapidly and unpredictably, as each man took a punch, staggered to his corner, and came out swinging again. The quality of play peaked, and the haymakers flew from both ends, as the match went into overtime in the fifth set. Finally, Djokovic overreached on a punch; he touched the net on an overhead and had to surrender a crucial point.

This match might be called the Second Epic of the Nadal-Djokovic rivalry; the first came in the 2012 Australian Open final, and the third in the 2018 Wimbledon semifinals. Djokovic won those two, but, as Nadal said in Paris, “This one was for me.” They almost always are at Roland Garros.