They also topped the table in Masters titles, Djokovic with 30 and Nadal with 29, and their achievements were finely balanced: Djokovic had won an Open era record of 22 hard court Masters titles among a tally of 50; Nadal was the master when it came to clay with 20 Masters on the red stuff among a tally of 51.
Yet Nadal, coming back into form after two underwhelming years, was quick to play down suggestions he was already the favourite for the French Open and, by default, the Rome Masters - a tournament he is looking to win for the eighth time.
Djokovic earned his first break point of the match in the 12th game and he took the opportunity to draw level at 2-2 but Nadal was in a ruthless mood and hit back immediately with another break to regain a lead he would not relinquish. The Spaniard converted his fifth set point of the match to take that tiebreaker and go one set up. Im very happy for what I achieved, Nadal said.
"I know Novak has made some changes in his coaching staff and I am sure he is a rival who is going to battle for all of the major titles in the future", added Nadal who will now face either Pablo Cuevas or Domenic Thiem in Sunday's final.
The victory also moves Nadal above Roger Federer to fourth in the world rankings. Cuevas won one of the points of the tournament with a no-look victor with his back to the court after a lob shot by Zverev early in the second set. The semifinal in question is scheduled for Saturday and would've been played out by the time you read this. "I'll try to be 100 per cent and ready for tomorrow's match". "I think he (Rafael Nadal) played a very good match in Barcelona". Nadal improves to 4-1 lifetime over the 23-year-old with today's win, and 34-5 in 2017 (15-0 on clay). "It shows you you're working in the right way", said Nadal, who has thrived after struggling with his game for two years.
"This is a very emotional period of the season". In Monte-Carlo and Barcelona I did well, same here. The defending champion is scheduled to meet Rafael Nadal in the semis, should the Spaniard overcome David Goffin in back-to-back Masters 1000 contest, after winning the Monte Carlo semi-final.
Early signs weren't good for Thiem after a break between sets as he surrendered his serve at the first time of asking, and despite keeping his enemy stuck to his own baseline at times, the Spanish native spun the fixture in his favour. "I hope you understand and respect that". He withdrew from the Barcelona Open last month because of the lingering wrist inflammation.
A win will grant Nadal his 30th Masters title, equalling the record held by his vanquished opponent, Djokovic. These tournaments are so strong, so it's awesome for me to go that far.
Indeed Djokovic could only muster four points in the opening four games as Nadal raced into a 4-0 lead.