After the US Open Final saw none of the Big Four compete in it for the first slam final since US Open 2014, things are back to normal at the French Open. Rafael Nadal looks to secure an extraordinary thirteenth French Open and match Roger Federer’s haul of 20 slams overall while Novak Djokovic is hoping to win the French Open for just the second time to move to 18.
Watch the Nadal vs Djokovic Live Stream Here.
Much of the narrative pre-tournament had centred around whether Nadal would be able to deal with the cold and wet conditions that an October outdoor clay tournament would bring. He was seen as vulnerable after failing to win Rome, getting outplayed by Diego Schwartzman in the semi-finals. As he often does, he has silenced the doubters with his run to the final. While it wasn’t the toughest, he didn’t drop a set throughout and gained revenged on Schwartzman in the semi final. The Argentinian was his toughest test so far but Nadal’s level rose at the key times in the 6-3 6-3 7-6 win, including the third set tiebreak which he won all seven points in. “I think I played solid,” said Nadal after the match. “I played with the right determination in most of the moments of the match. Especially in the tiebreak – I finished the match playing well.”
After easing through the opening week, things have been a little bit more difficult for Djokovic in the second week. He dropped the opening set against Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarter-finals, while dealing with a couple of minor injuries in the process. It looked like normal service had resumed in the semi-finals against Stefanos Tsitsipas as he rushed into a two sets and break lead against the Greek. A failure to serve out the match proved highly damaging as he was dragged into a fifth set against the fifth seed. It was one he eventually won with ease but he will have been majorly disappointed to have spent nearly two more hours on court than he will have hoped for. “I stayed calm and stayed positive on the surface, even if inside it was very different thing,” Djokovic said. “I was solid and consistent at the most important moments and I was happy for that.
Nadal will always have to be the favourite to win a match at Roland Garros and there is no change here given their respective journeys to the final. Nadal has been battle-tested to some extent in the last two rounds while picking up little damage on his body while a Djokovic with some minor niggles has had to play additional sets, which could see him tire as this one goes on. While the colder conditions have seen extended rallies become more prominent in this tournament, that won’t be too much of an advantage for Nadal compared to against his other opponents. Djokovic does lead the head to head at 29-26 but his clay record leaves a lot to be desired at 7-17. Were this event elsewhere, Djokovic’s chances may be higher but his 1-6 record against Nadal in Paris looks likely to become 1-7 after Sunday evening.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in four sets