Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal: Score and Reaction from 2015 French Open

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2015

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 03:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates a point in his Men's quarter final match against Rafael Nadal of Spain on day eleven of the 2015 French Open at Roland Garros on June 3, 2015 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

At first glance, 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 is just another tennis score. But this particular tennis score tells a much deeper story.

It tells the story of Novak Djokovic ending Rafael Nadal's dominance at the French Open, where he'd won nine of the past 10 titles and 39 matches in a row. It tells the story of Djokovic's ascension to the throne of the men's game, where he'll preside by himself if he wins the French Open. It certainly tells the story of the game's best rivalry tipping dramatically in favor of Djokovic, who has now won six of the last seven meetings between the two players.

And let's not forget that it tells the story of Djokovic doing the one thing the great Roger Federer never could—beating Nadal at Roland Garros.

The fact that Djokovic did it in such dominating fashion can't be ignored either. Consider the following, from ESPN Stats & Information:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Novak Djokovic sweeps Rafael Nadal in French Open quarterfinals. This was Nadal’s first straight-set loss in the French

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As Chris Oddo of Tennis Now tweeted, Djokovic was just on a different level:

Chris Oddo @TheFanChild

What an amazing effort from Djokovic. Scoreline says it was easy but he handled the most difficult challenge in tennis with MAGIC.

He also reached a different milestone against Nadal, per Kevin Negandhi of ESPN:

Kevin Negandhi @KNegandhiESPN

Djokovic is the only player to beat Nadal 4 times at a Grand Slam (Federer, Ferrer, Hewitt, Murray have each beaten Nadal twice)

The loss will carry over into the rankings, leaving Nadal at a relative low point given his historic career, per Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times:

Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg

Nadal now slips to #10, or #11 if Tsonga wins his SF. Rafa's first time with a double-digit ranking in over a decade, since April 2005.#RG15

Nadal was graceful in defeat, of course. In fact, he managed to both be honest about his odds coming into the match and defiant in the face of any suggestion that his game might be faltering, per Christopher Clarey of the New York Times:

Christopher Clarey @christophclarey

Nadal on losing to Djokovic: "It's not a big surprise, no? I didn't win enough before here. It's something that could happen."

Christopher Clarey @christophclarey

"I lost in 2009, and it was not the end. I lost in 2015, and it is not the end" Nadal on loss to Djokovic

He added, per Rothenberg:

Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg

"There is only one thing sure: I'm going to work harder even than before to come back stronger." -Rafael Nadal's final words in press. #RG15

If you look only at the score, you might think that Nadal was poor on the day. That's not exactly the case. While Nadal wasn't at his best, at times the match was an epic affair, and Nadal made Djokovic work for every point. Djokovic was simply the better player on the day.

At points, he was better by a whisker. At other points, he was better by a mile.

The first set was a wild ride. Djokovic won the first four games and looked set to cruise to a first-set triumph, but Nadal battled back and put the match back on serve, winning four games in a row of his own. But Djokovic was too tough, winning three of the next four games to take the first set.

It was a brilliant start to the match and featured a furious, memorable rally, which SportsCenter on Twitter passed along:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

What a start to the match! Rafael Nadal rallies, but Novak Djokovic takes the 1st set, 7-5. Catch the rest on ESPN2. http://t.co/ZxZYvvO5KJ

Djokovic was far more clinical in the second set, pounding his serve at Nadal's body and generally controlling each point, even on Nadal's serve. He didn't so much as face a break point in the set. That left Nadal down 2-0, which was a bit of history in its own right, per ESPN Stats & Information:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Rafael Nadal trails 2-0 for first time at French Open (today is his 72nd career match at Roland Garros). Watch: http://t.co/EwDy4aKAnc

By the third set, Djokovic's triumph seemed inevitable. He won the first four games without much drama and conceded only one game in the set. By the time Nadal double-faulted to lose the match, he looked like a man less disappointed in the result than one who had long been resigned to his fate and just wanted to get off the court.

Despite the fact that this win probably felt like the final for Djokovic, he still has two matches left if he hopes to earn his first victory at Roland Garros and the career Grand Slam. But after beating Nadal where he had previously been virtually unbeatable—remember, Nadal came into this match 70-1 all-time at the French Open—it's hard to imagine who is capable at the moment of knocking Djokovic off his perch atop the men's game. 

It's too early to crown Djokovic at Roland Garros. But it sure feels like his career Grand Slam is inevitable after knocking off Nadal.

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