The semi-final meeting was the 50th clash between the pair and it was Djokovic who had the better head-to-head record, leading 26-23, and the Serbian had also won the last seven matches against Nadal. Djokovic's game was getting better by this time.
The Spaniard wasted little time in taking the fight to second seed Djokovic, who appeared nearly dumbfounded at the blistering pace with which his opponent took to their semi-final meeting. "It shows you you're working in the right way".
And speaking after his defeat to Nadal, who he described as the clear favourite to win at Roland Garros, Djokovic suggested he was willing to remain patient before appointing a new coach. I mean, I made a lot of unforced errors, especially first set. She lost to Maria Sharapova in 2014.
It was another categorical win for Nadal in what has been a superb season for the fifth-ranked Spaniard, who will be trying to win his third straight title on Sunday. Nadal last won in Madrid in 2014.
This time a year ago Djokovic was on top of the tennis world, not only in the present, but ticking all-time great achievements.
He told atpworldtour.com: "What's important to me is to make it to another final".
That the two men were among the four most prolific Major champions, both with career Grand Slams, and both with repeated stretches as world No1 only added to their status in tennis's record books: Djokovic had a tally of 223 weeks at the top, Nadal 141 weeks. His resurgence in 2017, though, was one of the stories of the season so far: Finals at the Australian Open, Miami and Acapulco, plus his 10th title in Monte-Carlo and 10th in Barcelona.
The best chance came in a couple of great rallies but where the Djokovic of old would be able to contort himself into all manner of positions to get the ball back, he just could not get himself over the line, and as the third match-point came, was left looking heavenwards - what more did he need to do to catch a break.
"I cannot promise to play or pull out right now". "It's true that he made some mistakes, but he fought until the end".
Nadal woke up Saturday having lost seven in a row to Djokovic over the course of nearly three years. This was his first semifinal since he won that title in January.
"I did try my best", Djokovic said. "His quality was very high and he managed to do whatever he wanted, especially in the first set".
The Spaniard finished off the first set in 40 minutes and again broke the struggling Djokovic in the opening game of the second.
Djokovic advanced to the semi after injury forced quarter-final opponent Kei Nishikori to withdraw before their clash, but a lack of match-readiness appeared to inhibit the Serb instead of rejuvenating him.
With Cristiano Ronaldo and Olympic great Nadia Comaneci watching courtside, Nadal was aggressive from the start and had 20 winners, including seven off his backhand.
With Djokovic beginning to open his shoulders a little more, Nadal turned to his improved serve to keep him in control while continuing to trouble the Serb on his own serve.
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