The opening round of the French Open is upon us and one of the major storylines heading into this year’s tournament is whether world No. 1 Novak Djokovic can take advantage of Rafael Nadal’s startlingly poor clay court season to date and capitalize on the opportunity to claim the only Grand Slam title missing from his trophy cabinet. The odds are seemingly in his favour, as Djokovic has been handed a strong draw up until the quarter-final, and he will begin that campaign against Jarkko Nieminen. This marks the sixth time that these two competitors will cross paths on the professional tour, with Djokovic leading the head-to-head series 4-1.
After taking a short break from the tour to not play Monte Carlo, Djokovic returned to the tour for the Rome Masters, where he had far from his best week this season on the ATP World Tour. However, even though he didn’t play his best, he still found a way to claim his fourth title at that event. Djokovic, who was forced into several three-set matches throughout the week, defeated world No. 2 Roger Federer in straight sets to secure his title win just weeks ahead of the French Open. He won the match 6-4, 6-3 to close in on Federer’s lead in the head-to-head series.
The Serb will come up against Jarkko Nieminen, who has only won one match so far on the tour this season on clay. Following an immediate exit in Monte Carlo, Nieminen won one match in Istanbul before being ousted by Roger Federer. He then lost his opening match to Russian up-and-comer Andrey Rublev last week in Geneva.
This is just the sixth time that Djokovic and Nieminen will cross paths on the professional tour, with Djokovic leading the head-to-head series 4-1. Their most recent encounter took place last season, when Djokovic defeated the Finish competitor in straight sets on the clay courts in Monte Carlo. There is little doubt that this encounter will feature a similar scoreline.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic in Straight Sets