During Rafael Nadal’s long and illustrious career, he played 112 games at Roland Garros and won 109 of them.
His longtime rival Novak Djokovic is responsible for two of those three defeats in Paris.
The two players, who have won 15 of the last 17 French Open titles, will meet in the quarter-finals on Tuesday in what is one of the tournament’s most anticipated matches.
They have faced each other 59 times – more than any other man in the sport’s pro era – and are relatively even; Nadal leads the Grand Slam tally by one with 21 titles while Djokovic leads the head-to-head 30-28.
On clay, the rivalry is more lopsided in favor of Nadal who has won seven matches to Djokovic’s two.
Nadal’s dominance in this tournament has been such that his fourth-round victory over Felix Auger-Aliassime yesterday was only the third time in his career that he has been taken down in five sets at Roland Garros.
But, in this fifth set, he showed his genius on clay. At two sets and three games in all, a flicker of a break point appeared for Nadal as he found himself 15-30 during Auger-Aliassime’s service game.
With two extraordinary passing shots, Nadal broke the young Canadian and concluded the game with little incident afterwards.
Top seed and world number one Djokovic, meanwhile, advanced to the quarter-finals with a 6-1 6-3 6-3 win over Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman.
This continued his perfect tournament start in which he has yet to drop a set.
“Obviously a highly anticipated game, I think, when the draw is out, for a lot of people,” Djokovic said, ahead of his quarter-final against Nadal.
“I’m glad I didn’t spend too much time on the court myself until the quarter-finals, knowing that playing it at Roland Garros is always a physical battle, along with everything else.
“[It’s] a huge challenge and probably the biggest you can have here at Roland Garros. I’m ready for that.
Both players have had troubled seasons so far; Djokovic’s refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 has limited his entry to several tournaments, including the Australian Open, while Nadal’s preparation for the French Open has been beset by a chronic foot injury left.
“Of course, we know each other well. We have a lot of history together,” Nadal said after his fourth-round win.
“Here we are at Roland Garros. It’s my favorite place, without a doubt. I don’t know what will happen, but the only thing I can guarantee is that I will fight until the end.”
In such a fierce rivalry, every detail takes on increased importance. For the first time this year, the tournament organizers have scheduled an evening session which could influence the outcome of the match.
Nadal favors warmer conditions during the day when the court is faster while Djokovic prefers the colder, slower night.
The order of play is expected to be announced on Monday.
Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev will meet in the other quarter-final of the first half of the table.