French Open: Djokovic admits Nadal was better in 'important' moments

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Novak Djokovic conceded he went down to the better player on the day, losing to Rafael Nadal in the French Open quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Nadal defeated the world number one 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6 (7-4) and moved to an 8-2 record over 10 matches between the two while also progressing to his 15th semi-final at Roland Garros.

Djokovic has accounted for two of Nadal's three losses over his career at the French Open but looked second best throughout, specifically in the crunch moments.

The first-seeded Serbian did not hide from that fact, praising the 21-time Grand Slam winner on the victory after quickly walking off Court Philippe-Chatrier and to his post-match news conference.

"Congratulations to Nadal. He was a better player I think in important moments," Djokovic said afterwards. "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.

"I had my chances. 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."

After claiming the third set with a stunning fightback, winning four consecutive games, Djokovic looked in a good spot to take the match to a deciding set.

While Djokovic's unforced error count piled up - coming up with 53 for the match - Nadal dug deep and broke back in the ninth game, displaying incredible defence and point management from the back of the court against a familiar rival.

Having missed his chance, Djokovic failed to regain momentum from there, with Nadal going up five match points in the fourth-set tie-break before closing out.

"I gave my best. I know I could have played better," Djokovic said. "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."

"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.

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

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