PARIS, Oct 10 (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic faces clay court king Rafael Nadal on Sunday in a dream final of the French Open, a clash in which the world’s two best players play more than another Grand Slam title.
Djokovic and Nadal have met 55 times, and the Serbian has won 29, to 26 of the Spanish, in one of the great rivalries of this sport.
However, when it comes to clay, there has never been anyone better than Nadal, the 12-time Roland Garros champion, who has beaten Djokovic in six of his seven clashes at the big French event, including the 2012 and 2014 finals. .
Djokovic, however, won their last meeting at the French Open in 2015, when he beat the Spaniard in the quarter-finals, something that he said gives him hope for Sunday’s showdown.
The winner in Paris will also take advantage in the Grand Slam final match between the two, which now shows a tie at four.
Also at stake is the battle to be considered the “greatest of all time.”
Djokovic was originally expected to arrive in Paris with 18 Grand Slam to his credit following the US Open in New York, where Nadal did not compete due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the 33-year-old Serbian was disqualified in his fourth-round match at Flushing Meadows when he inadvertently hit a linesman with the ball.
Nadal is just one behind Roger Federer’s 20 major tournaments and a 13th French Open title on Sunday would put him on the same level as the Swiss, leaving Djokovic three behind.
“For me, it’s the final that I dreamed of,” said Alex Corretja, Eurosport tennis expert and a two-time Roland Garros finalist.
“… Whoever wins it will be interesting for tennis. No matter what happens on Sunday, tennis will win with Novak and Rafa in the final.”
“I think this is the perfect setting for this Roland Garros final, after this year we needed this kind of match. I’m excited about the final.”
Nadal, 34, complained of the cold at the postponed French Open, which usually takes place in May-June, the new balls used in this edition and the late end of the matches.
However, the unusual conditions have had little impact on his performances, as the Spaniard has not lost a set in his six victories in this year’s edition.
No player has beaten Djokovic this year, with New York’s loss to the pitch being his only blemish, and the Serb showed incredible mental strength and determination to win the Rome Masters after his debacle at the US Open.
A fresh victory on Sunday will make Djokovic the first man of the Open era to win every Grand Slam tournament at least twice.
“They both know this is an incredible time to make history,” added Corretja. “I think we’re going to see a lot of nerves because they know they are playing for something really special.”
Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, who lost in five sets to Djokovic in the semifinals, said the Serb’s game is almost perfect.
Chris Evert, winner of 18 Grand Slams titles, coincided with Tsitsipas.
“Novak, sometimes, is not human,” said Evert, an expert for Eurosport. “I look at Nadal and I see a warrior, fighting for everything, he is going to leave blood on the court.”
“I look at Djokovic and I see more of a robot, but in a good way. The mental part of his game is a notch above all others, he is impressive. His game is impeccable … he is like a wall, it is difficult walk through a wall. “
(Information from Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; edited by Ken Ferris; translated by Tomás Cobos)