The biggest rivalry in men’s tennis will write another chapter on Sunday afternoon, as world No. 1 Rafael Nadal and world No. 2 Novak Djokovic meet for a unprecedented 42nd time on the professional tour. Nadal leads the rivalry 22-19, but has lost the most recent two matches against Djokovic at the Sony Open and the Rome Masters. The two players have already surpassed John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl and will likely continue to add to their rivalry’s ever-growing legacy. Check out the Nadal vs Djokovic Head to Head matches.
For Novak Djokovic, a win against Rafa on Sunday would not only secure his first French Open title, it would mark the completion of his career Grand Slam, as well as his return to the No. 1 ranking. He won a relatively easy semi-final match against Ernests Gulbis, but needed four sets to get past the Latvian in the end. He defeated the No. 18 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in two hours and 36 minutes.
It was clear that the Serb was not at his best in the third set, and while he recovered in the fourth, he did not celebrate his win following the match, instead choosing to quietly leave the court.
“First two sets went well,” Djokovic said at the post-match press conference. “I thought I played well. Very solid. Serving at a high percentage. Then suddenly, midway through the third set, I started to feel a little fatigued. You could see that both me and him we struggled on the court. It happens in the tournament. Important thing for me is that I realize what is going on and it is nothing serious. I will now have two days of recovery to get ready for the final.”
While there were rumblings after the match that Djokovic was not feeling well, particularly after he delayed his press conference until two hours after his match, the Serbian star was adamant that he was only dealing with “general fatigue.”
“There is nothing bothering me. Just general fatigue that probably was influenced by the conditions and several other things but I am not going to talk about it. I’m glad I won in four set because if it went to a fifth set, God knows which direction it would have gone.”
In the second of the two semi-finals, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal demolished his British opponent Andy Murray to reach his ninth French Open final. It was arguably Rafa’s best performance of the week, as he controlled the match from the start to the very final point to defeat Murray 6-3, 6-2, 6-1. Nadal played an outstanding match, where he generated a remarkable amount of topspin that Murray was simply unable to handle.
“Today I played my best tennis of the tournament,” Nadal said. “For me it’s much better when the weather is like today. It’s obvious that with days like today, it helps my game.”
- The Djokovic/Nadal rivalry is the one to ever take place at all four Grand Slams.
- They have played a record 22 Masters 1000 events.
- Nadal leads 9-3 in best-of-five set matches.
- Djokovic is the player with most career wins against Nadal. Nadal is also the player with most career wins against Djokovic.
- Djokovic is the only player to have defeated Nadal in 4 clay court finals.
Nadal is 0-2 against Djokovic in 2014, but still leads the overall series 22-19. While Rafa is 13-4 against Djokovic on clay, they are 4-4 on that surface since 2011, which certainly evens out Djokovic’s chances on Sunday afternoon. Novak also leads the finals 12-9, but they are tied in Grand Slam finals at 3-3. The stats are as close as can possibly be, which would mean we are in for a thrilling battle between two of the greatest athletes in the history of the sport.
If both players bring their finest form to Court Philip Chariter on Sunday, then they will entertain the crowd with their dazzling gameplay until one falters, but if Djokovic is downplaying a serious physical issue, then Nadal may have an easy path to his historic ninth French Open tite.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Five Sets