Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will renew their rivalry in the 54th clash between two of the best of the world, looking to gain the upper hand on their opponent heading into Roland Garros. It’s the second meeting of the year between the two, following Djokovic’s easy win in the Australian Open. He currently leads the head to head 28-25 having won 9 of 11 since the beginning of 2015.
Both men had been disappointing after Melbourne but it’s Nadal’s inability to win a title this year that has come as a major surprise. Very rarely was his name not on the winner’s trophy if he competed in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid but he failed to win any of them – losing at the semi final stage on all three occasions. He looks much stronger this week, cutting through the Rome draw with ease. He avenged his Madrid loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas with a comfortable victory over the Greek, winning 6-3 6-4 to make the final. “Winning in straight sets against him is a very positive result. More than this is a feeling that I am playing better every week, every day. That’s important for me.” a delighted Nadal said afterwards.
Djokovic had to work hard to earn victory against an Argentinian for the second night running, this time beating Diego Schwartzman in three sets. After splitting the opening two sets, a single break in the third was enough for him to secure the victory – 6-3 6-7 6-3. In his two wins over Schwartzman and Juan Martin Del Potro, Djokovic was on court for longer than Nadal has been across his four wins this week.
It is going to take a mighty effort from Djokovic to win a second straight title, against a Nadal growing in confidence. Between time on court and resting time, all is lying in the Spaniard’s favour going into this one. “He’s my greatest rival of all time, for sure,” said Djokovic. “I’ve had so many matches against him. We have the longest rivalry of tennis of all time. Every time we get to play each other, it’s a thrill. It’s the ultimate challenge.”
“The main thing is I am playing better. For me, tomorrow is an opportunity to play against a great player. It’s another test. I hope to be ready to compete well. It’s going to be a tough one.” Nadal said. A first title of the year looks to be finally coming his way as he looks to make a statement with Roland Garros just over a week away.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in three sets