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Novak Djokovic: 'Rafael Nadal was the better player in important moments'

Novak Djokovic reacts to Rafael Nadal point

Novak Djokovic was happy to concede that Rafael Nadal was 'the better player' as his French Open defence came to an end in the quarterfinals.

Djokovic and Nadal met for the 59th time in their epic rivalry in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros, and they put on a typically outstanding exhibition of tennis.

The momentum shifted throughout between both players before Nadal was able to come back from 2-5 down in the fourth set to seal a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 win.

It was a disappointing end to Djokovic's title defence, but he said he could have few complaints about the result.

"Congratulations to Nadal," Djokovic told the press. "He was a better player I think in important moments.

“[He] started very well. I didn't start so great, 2-6, 0-3, double break down. I was gaining momentum as I was coming back in the second set, managed to win the second set, and I thought, I'm back in the game.

“But then he had another two, three fantastic games at the beginning of the third.

"He was just able to take his tennis to another level in those, particularly moments at the beginning of all sets except the fourth. He showed why he's a great champion.

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"Staying there mentally tough and finishing the match the way he did. Congrats to him and his team. No doubt he deserved it.”

Djokovic's biggest frustration was letting the fourth set slip through his fingers, and he believes things could have been very different had the contest gone into a deciding set.

"I had my chances," he said. "I had my chances in the fourth [set]

“Served for the set, couple set points. Just one or two shots could have taken me into a fifth. Then it's really anybody's match.

“I gave my best. I know I could have played better. I'm proud of fighting and staying until the last shot.

"As I said, I lost to a better player today. Had my chances. Didn't use them. That's it. Over four hours' battle and I have to accept this defeat.”

Novak Djokovic still leads the head-to-head against Rafael Nadal, with him winning 30 of the 59 matches they have contested.

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