Sense of anti-climax as Nadal's reign ended by Djokovic

Wed Jun 3, 2015 4:19pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

(Reuters) - An almost deathly hush descended as Serbian Novak Djokovic administered the last rites on Rafa Nadal's reign of dominance at the French Open on Wednesday.

On the same dusty rectangle of Parisian clay on which the marauding Mallorcan struck fear into opponents for a decade, Djokovic made him suffer, handing out a straight-sets quarter-final beating -- 7-5 6-3 6-1 -- that, by the end, was awkward to watch.

Nine-times champion Nadal had fitfully found some form after a horror opening four games against the rampant Djokovic, whose previous six encounters with the Spaniard at Roland Garros had all ended in despair, twice in the final.

For a while, something seemed to have stirred inside Nadal, the old timing sending the ball hurtling to within inches of the opposite baseline. For a while Djokovic doubted.

Yet once a hesitant Nadal plopped a volley into the tramlines to hand Djokovic the opener on his sixth set point, there was an inevitability about the outcome of the 44th meeting between the two players.

Commentating on the match for Eurosport, former world number one John McEnroe said Nadal seemed to be playing with "weights on his ankles" in the early stages.

The only thing holding Djokovic back was self-belief -- not usually an ingredient missing from a player who has been virtually unbeatable this year.

There was panic in his eyes when he surrendered that 4-0 lead, old scars re-opening.   Continued...

Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns the ball to Rafael Nadal of Spain during their men's quarter-final match during the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, June 3, 2015.        REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier