What more is there to say about the Djokovic-Nadal matchup that hasn't already been said? Tomorrow brings the 33rd permutation of the rivalry, the first time the world's current top two players will contest the French Open championship. Their career head-to-head certainly provides plenty of results to ponder, but at this point, history should be thrown out. Djokovic and Nadal are two of the most evenly matched players ever to dominate tennis together, but the surface and circumstances of the tournament should put one of them over the top.
This match is dripping with history. If Nadal wins, that would be his 7th Roland Garros title, which would put him one ahead of Bjorn Borg. If Djokovic wins, he would complete the Nole Slam and hold all four majors at the same time. This is also the fourth straight major that the two have met in the finals, a first in tennis history. It is an unprecedented accomplishment for the two men. Let's look at the matchup itself.
The key to the match lies in how the French Open has transpired for both players so far. Since the Round of 16, Novak Djokovic has been living on the edge. He required five sets to erase the two-set lead of Andreas Seppi, and staved off four match points in the quarterfinals to defeat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in another five-setter. His only reprieve from drama came in the semifinals against Roger Federer. Despite facing a break deficit in the first two sets, Djokovic prevailed in a relatively comfortable straight-set win. The same matchup ended his Roland Garros run (and perfect season) last year, so getting past Federer with relative ease must be big for Djokovic's confidence.
That said, The Serb has struggled with bouts of poor play throughout the tournament, and that's a cause for concern when he's asked to beat a pitch-perfect Rafael Nadal. The King of Clay has steamrolled his competiton so far, losing a combined 18 games in three straight-set wins over Juan Monaco, Nicolas Almagro, and David Ferrer in the last three rounds. All three men are exceptional clay court players, and although they lack the contrast in styles that would make them a threat to Nadal, the world #2's total dominance is still a surprise. The fact that he dismissed Ferrer, who won their last Slam meeting, by a score of 6-2, 6-2, 6-1, gives absolutely no reason to believe that Djokovic will be able to disrupt Nadal's Roland Garros winning streak. Consider the court time they've accumulated so far this tournament, and Rafa's advantage only widens.
But it's never a good idea to count Djokovic out. He'll get his teeth into the match, but his offense has let him down at times in the tournament, and it will have to be nearly flawless if he expects to break down Nadal's masterful defense. The clay wins that Djokovic scored over Nadal in 2011 eluded him this year, with Nadal emerging victorious in Monte Carlo and Rome. With all of these factors in mind, Nadal will hold a significant edge, and should be on his way to yet another title on the court that has defined his career.
We will have a liveblog up at 9 for the tournament, and we hope to see you then