Novak Djokovic became the first player to beat Rafael Nadal twice at Roland Garros earlier this month, winning a thrilling four-set quarterfinal against the Spaniard. The Serb went on to win the final for his 19th Grand Slam championship and second French Open triumph, making him the first man to win each Major twice in the Open Era.
Rafael Nadal’s semifinal loss, on the other hand, was only his third in Paris in his whole career. Before then, the Spaniard had a 33-match winning streak and was generally expected to claim the trophy and become the all-time Grand Slam champion.
But that didn’t happen, and Novak Djokovic’s victory sparked a flurry of debates regarding the GOAT title and the Slam race. Toni Nadal, Rafael Nadal’s uncle and former coach, recently stated that Djokovic’s strong performance at Roland Garros has changed his mind about who he believes will win the most Grand Slams.
“The truth is that before Roland Garros I saw Rafael (winning the most Grand Slams), now the subject has changed a bit,” Toni told MARCA. “The next Wimbledon and US Open will define things a bit because I understand that each year it will be more difficult to win.”
Toni Nadal also mentioned the young players on the tour and the threat they provide, noting Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev, and Alexander Zverev in particular.
“Tsitsipas was already on the verge of beating Djokovic in Paris,” Toni said. “Medvedev and Zverev are already there; Sinner, Musetti are coming.”
Rafael Nadal’s decision to withdraw from Wimbledon caught me off guard: Rafael Nadal’s arduous claycourt season took its toll on his body, forcing him to retire from Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics. However, there have been rumors that his loss to Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros may have influenced his decision to take a hiatus.
Hi all, I have decided not to participate at this year’s Championships at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo. It’s never an easy decision to take but after listening to my body and discuss it with my team I understand that it is the right decision
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) June 17, 2021
Rafa should be able to recover from the defeat, according to Toni Nadal, because it was not his first. The 60-year-old did say, though, that his nephew’s withdrawal from Wimbledon surprised him.
“A loss at Roland Garros is always painful, especially if you have won 13 times,” Toni Nadal said. “But it is not Rafael’s first defeat. He has lost more difficult games in finals. It is normal that he is a little affected.”
“It did surprise me (Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from Wimbledon),” Toni added. “It is true that he had a few small problems, but obviously he thought he would play.”
Novak Djokovic is now in a strong position to win all four Grand Slams this year after winning the Australian Open and Roland Garros. Toni Nadal believes the feat is difficult but not impossible.
“It is very difficult, but it is possible because he is World No. 1 ,” Toni said.
“I did not see an incredibly good game” – Toni on Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic’s Roland Garros semifinal
The semifinal battle between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal is largely recognized as one of the best matches of the 2021 season thus far. In fact, many experts and fans consider the over 100-minute third set to be one of the best in the sport’s history.
Toni Nadal, on the other hand, thinks the match isn’t as good as it’s been made out to be. The 60-year-old noted that while Novak Djokovic performed admirably, he was aided by his nephew’s enormous amount of faults.
“I did not find it at a particularly high level,” Toni said. “When you look at the last set, yes. It is true that he won very good points, but Rafael failed more than normal. He made 55 unforced errors and that made it easier for Djokovic to play better.”
Toni also mentioned that his nephew’s level and stats were not as good this year as they were in the 2020 competition.
“If you look at Rafael’s numbers from 2020 to 2021 there is a difference. In the end it is a scale, when one goes up the other goes down and vice versa,” Rafael Nadal’s uncle added. “I did not see an incredibly good game. I read that it was said that the level was very high, with superlative adjectives, and I did not see it that way.”