Rafael Nadal looks to earn a record break ninth title and fifth in succession when he faces Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s French Open final. The World No.1 and No.2 will face off for the 42nd time in their careers as the biggest rivalry in the game adds yet another chapter to their story.
Doubts surrounded Nadal after a far from convincing clay season in which he suffered three defeats, the most since he was a teenager, but he has dispelled many of them with a straight forward run to the final. Only Leonardo Mayer managed to get more than four games in any set during the first week while David Ferrer was the only player to take a set. Doing so took a lot out of the Spanish No.2 who fell apart in the final two sets, winning only one game. After thrashing Andy Murray in the semis, Nadal enters the final having lost just six 7 games combined in the last five sets – against two top 10 players.
Though never in real danger, Djokovic has been tested slightly more dropping sets to Marin Cilic and Ernests Gulbis. The semi final against Gulbis screamed potential banana skin but he navigated it safely, avoiding a tricky fifth set and ensuring the tank was not empty before what will likely be a marathon encounter with Nadal.
While Nadal currently leads the head to head 22-19, Djokovic has been gnawing away at that advantage for the past few years and is currently on a four match winning streak that includes a three set victory in Rome last month. It was vital for Djokovic to reassert himself on the clay as he looks to erase the nightmare of last year’s semi final and the net touch point that turned the match on it’s head when Djokovic was in control deep in the fifth set.
It is difficult to go against a player with the dominant record that Nadal has in Paris but there is supporting evidence for Djokovic, especially after that Rome victory in which Nadal was outplayed for the final two sets. Best of five is a different animal but the advantage Nadal has over the rest of the field in the format is minor when it comes to facing Djokovic. The Serbian is nearing ever closer and will have confidence that he can control the matchup if he is at his best.
Victory will add Djokovic to the illustrious list of those who have completed the Career Grand Slam while the top spot in the ATP World Tour rankings is up for grabs. The winner will be No.1 in Monday’s rankings.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic in five sets