Novak Djokovic admits Rafael Nadal was 'the better player' after French Open defeat

Novak Djokovic was unable to get the better of Rafael Nadal at the French Open for a third time, but he was left with few complaints about the result.

Novak Djokovic admitted that Rafael Nadal was "the better player" as the Spaniard won their French Open quarter-final clash.

It was the 59th time the players had faced each other on court, but this one was played on Rafael Nadal's most beloved territory - Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Djokovic was able to compete and at times looked in the ascendency, but he was unable to prevent Nadal from claiming a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 success to keep alive his hopes of winning a 14th French Open title.

"Congratulations to Nadal," Djokovic said after the match. "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.

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

It was an instant classic of a match rich in sublime tennis, but it also contained more momentum shifts than perhaps any other in recent memory.

Ultimately, it was Nadal was who able to ride those out at the crucial moments, but Novak Djokovic was left frustrated at missed opportunities - particularly when leading 5-2 in the fourth 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."

READ MORE: Where does Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic stand among tennis' greatest ever rivalries?

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