Q2 Review: Djokovic, Nadal, Federer Tighten Grip On Top
Nadal made the semi-finals at SW19 (l. to Federer), but the Spaniard, per usual, ruled the main European clay-court swing despite a slow start on the surface.
Nadal didn't win his first title of the season until 19 May, the longest it's taken him since 2004, when he won his maiden tour-level title. But the Spaniard made up for the missed opportunities, beating Djokovic for the Internazionali BNL d'Italia title in Rome for his record-setting 34th ATP Masters 1000 title and then running away with his 12th Roland Garros title against Dominic Thiem.
“Too many issues the last 18 months. So that makes these last few weeks very, very special,” Nadal said after winning in Paris.
Djokovic also had a less-than-Novak like finish to the first quarter of the season, failing to reach the quarter-finals at either March Masters event.
But the Serbian recovered well, winning the Mutua Madrid Open title (d. Tsitsipas) for his 33rd Masters 1000 title. Djokovic then reached the Rome final and Roland Garros semi-finals before hoisting his 16th Grand Slam title at the All England Club.
“It was probably the most demanding, mentally most demanding, match I was ever part of. I had the most physically demanding match against Nadal in the  final of Australia that went almost six hours. But mentally this was a different level, because of everything,” Djokovic said.
Federer won his 10th NOVENTI OPEN title in Halle, the first time the Swiss has entered double-digit titles at a tournament. At SW19, the 37-year-old made his 31st Grand Slam final (20-11) and had two match points to become the oldest Grand Slam champion in the Open Era. Instead, Federer fell to Djokovic for the 26th time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series (22-26).
“I just feel like it's such an incredible opportunity missed, I can't believe it,” Federer said.
On clay, Federer returned for the first time since 2016, making the quarter-finals in Rome and Madrid and the semi-finals at Roland Garros.
Austrian Dominic Thiem, No. 4 in the ATP Rankings, also compiled another strong clay-court swing, beating Nadal en route to the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell title (d. Medvedev), making the semi-finals in Madrid (l. to Djokovic) and reaching his second consecutive Roland Garros final (l. to Nadal). And No. 6 Alexander Zverev won his first title of the year in Geneva and reached his second Grand Slam quarter-final in Paris.
Other highlights of the second quarter included Italy's Fabio Fognini breaking into the Top 10 and winning his first Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters; Russians Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev also joined the elite group for the first time; and four players won their first tour-level title: Chilean Cristian Garin (Houston, Munich), Adrian Mannarino of France ('s-Hertogenbosch), Lorenzo Sonego of Italy (Antalya) and American Taylor Fritz, who made the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals (Eastbourne).