The French Open men’s tennis final will be fought out by the two favorites, eight-times champion Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who seeks his first Roland Garros title (Sunday, 9am EST). With so much history between the two best players in the world, expect this one to be another classic.
The top-ranked men’s player will face the second ranked men’s player in a grand slam final. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before. Seriously, anything else would be surprising but this, this is just text book.
Both Nadal (pictured) and Djokovic were expected to get through their respective quarters en route to the finals and both did. Both were expected to not have too much trouble getting there and both didn’t.
Nadal and Djokovic belong in this final because they are by far the two best tennis players in the world and have been for quite some time. Roger Federer’s days are numbered and Andy Murray, who underperforms on clay, hasn’t been consistent enough to stay in the top four. Nadal and Djokovic on the other hand continue to prove their stature at each grand slam. Predicting them to reach the finals nine out of 10 times really is as close to a sure thing as you can get in this sport.
So maybe it is a broken record but hey, when two guys are so far above the rest in terms of talent, stamina and ability, it only makes sense that they would meet in the finals.
The Greatest Rivalry in Tennis?
For years, Roger Federer, the winningest man in tennis history, ruled the courts. He was dominant on grass and hard courts. He set records and occupied the world number one spot for longer than anyone else had.
Yet, some say he can never be considered as the greatest of all-time and that is because there was one player who was his kryptonite. That man of course was Nadal.
Nadal and Federer have met 33 times and the Spaniard has emerged victorious in 23 of those matchups. 20 of those matchups occurred in tournament finals. Their 2008 Wimbledon Final is still considered the greatest match of all time by many analysts.
While this rivalry has always tended to be a bit one-sided, it has only worsened for Federer in recent years. Age and time seem to be taking a toll on the ultimate champion as his ranking has slipped and he hasn’t won a major in his last seven attempts or two years.
As a result, Nadal and Federer haven’t faced off in a grand slam final since 2011’s French Open. In addition, 2013 was the first year since 2010 that the pair not meet in a grand slam final.
Nadal did however meet Djokovic in the US Open final in 2013. The pair have also met in eight grand slam finals and one semifinal since 2010. They have made it clear to the tennis sphere that there is a new top rivalry in tennis and unlike Federer-Nadal, a rivalry that is nowhere near one-sided.
Djokovic and Nadal have actually met more times than Federer and Nadal. In fact with 42 total head-to-heads, Djokovic and Nadal have played each other more than any other pair in Open Era history. The pair also hold the record for most finals played against one opponent (22) and most matches played against one opponent at a grand slam (12). Nadal leads the head-to-head but only slightly. He has a 22-19 edge but Djokovic has won each of the last four.
This is the French though and it is a whole different animal for Nadal, the man they call the “Clay Court King.” Nadal and Djokovic have met four previous times at Roland Garros and each of those times the Spaniard has been victorious. He is a big part of the reason why Djokovic does not have the career grand slam, something he is hoping to rectify in this match.
Nine-Time or First Time?
Sunday’s match features Nadal going for his incredible ninth French Open title in 10 years. Even more remarkably, Nadal has not lost a French Open that he has actively contested. He has won his last 31 consecutive matches at Roland Garros and has a career 98.4 winning percentage there as well.
In short, Djokovic will need a miracle if he hopes to win his first French Open title. If anyone can beat Nadal at Roland Garros though, Djokovic has the best shot. It is slim one, don’t get me wrong, but it is something.
For Djokovic, the win has historical significance as well. It would mark the first French Open title for the Serbian and the last piece in his own quest for the career grand slam, something Nadal achieved when he was just 24.
As I mentioned, the slightly younger Djokovic has won the last four including a Masters series title on clay. That is big considering Nadal’s propensity for clay. And while Djokovic has yet to beat Nadal at the French, he has been the closest to doing so than anybody has in years with his 2012 semifinal performance. It is worth noting that final was the last time those two met at Roland Garros.
Nadal v Djokovic Betting Picks Verdict
Djokovic has been playing well lately and had a solid French. Unfortunately, so did Nadal, only dropping one set and doing so to countryman David Ferrer. And again, it is worth repeating that this is Nadal’s court and he certainly is the king.
That said, as much as I do believe Djokovic has a chance and as much as I think this will be an instant classic like their 2012 Australian Open Final, I’d be a fool to advise you to bet against Nadal. So I won’t.