“Too Many Unforced Errors”: Carlos Moya Reveals What Cost Rafael Nadal the French Open SF Against Novak Djokovic

Published 06/23/2021, 8:30 AM EDT
Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – June 11, 2021 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic with Spain’s Rafael Nadal before their semi final match REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes


Former Grand Slam champion Carlos Moya, who now coaches countrymate and tennis superstar Rafael Nadal, has shared his thoughts on the latter’s semi-final exit at Roland-Garros this year.

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Coming into the French Open as the defending champion, Nadal seemed to be on course for his 14th career title before he ran into arch nemesis Novak Djokovic in the last four.

In what was a repeat of the 2020 final, the ‘King of Clay’ seemed to have had a measure of the Serb in the opening set itself as he raced to a 5-0 lead before closing it at 6-3. However, the tide turned quite spectacularly thereafter as the Serb lifted his game to God-mode to win the next three sets, consigning the Spaniard to a rare trophy-less campaign at the French capital.

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Carlos Moya says Novak Djokovic played the crunch moments better than Rafael Nadal

Sharing his take on the epic last-four clash at Roland-Garros in an interview with a Spanish publication, Moya said that the match was very similar to the title clash in Rome this year which saw Nadal triumph over Djokovic in three sets to lift his 10th career title.

Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – June 11, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal during his semi final match against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Calling it an even contest, Moya said that the 13-time champion had to win a series of points to turn the match decisively in his favor but it was the Serbian who played better in crunch moments to eventually prevail.

Citing a case in point, he said that Djokovic held his nerve and was the better player when the game was in the balance at 5-6 in the third set. Zeroing in on another key moment in the match, Moya recalled how Nadal allowed the Serb a foot in the door after he took his foot off the pedal while leading 5-0 in the opening set.

“It was a game similar to the one they played in Rome a few weeks ago. Everything is very even and it is vital to hit a series of points that can change the balance. Novak was better in those situations, like 5-6 in the third set, but it was also key that Rafa let him into the game when he dominated 5-0 in the first set,” the coach said.

Moya added that although Nadal managed to close out the opening set in his favor, there were signs of resurgence in Djokovic’s game in the manner he reduced the deficit to 3-6.

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Nadal did the basics wrong against Djokovic, says Moya

The Spaniard added that while tactics play a large part in winning games of this nature, it also comes down to doing the basics right and that’s where Nadal faulted as “too many unforced errors” cost him in the end.

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“Rafa made too many unforced errors and he was not at his level with the serve or with the backhand. Novak did better, he cornered him very well on his backside and Rafa could not easily escape from there. We are going to learn a lot from this match,” Moya said.

Paying ultimate tribute to the Serb’s grit and mental strength, the former champion said, “He has an impressive mentality, a determination rarely seen in the history of the sport. All the members of the Big 3 have made each other better.”

While Djokovic will go into the Wimbledon Championships as the defending champion, Nadal has pulled out of All England and the Tokyo Olympics to rest and recover from a grueling clay season.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

1101 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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