After nearly two weeks of intense battle in Paris we finally know that Novak Djokovic will face Rafa Nadal in Sunday's final.
The scene has been set for this match ever
since Djokovic overcame Nadal in the Australian Open final last January. At
that point the Serb knew he would 'simply' need to win the French Open and he'd
become the first man since 1969, and only the third man in history, to hold all
four Slams at the same time.
Meanwhile this historic final at Roland
Garros holds massive significance for Rafa Nadal too. The swashbuckling
Spaniard knows that a victory on Sunday would make him the first man in history
to win seven French Open titles.
Whilst both men enjoyed smooth starts to
their campaigns, a divergence came at the start of the second week. Rafa Nadal
continued to breeze past opponents in the shape of Nicolas Almagro, and Juan
Monaco but Novak Djokovic nearly came unstuck twice.
A straight forward looking encounter with
Andreas Seppi proved anything but, as the world no.1 found himself having to
fight back from a two set deficit and in the match of the tournament so far,
the vociferous French crowd surely felt their man had booked himself a
semi-final place, as Tsonga took Novak to the brink with four match points.
As was pointed out here earlier in the week
though, Novak Djokovic now looks battle hardened and the dominance he showed
over Roger Federer in Friday's semi-final suggests that the hard work has stood
him in good stead for the coming battle.
Nadal came past David Ferrer in equally
impressive fashion and is still to drop a set here across the entire
tournament. But with so many easy victories, the Spaniard is sure to be a little
concerned that he'll face the world no.1 on Sunday, without having had the
benefit of a genuine test so far.
This will be the fourth Grand Slam final in
succession that these two have met so there's now no question whatsoever that
Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal is currently the biggest rivalry in men's tennis.
Whilst Rafa Nadal holds an 18-14 lead over
Djokovic, there are so many other stories to tell within those figures.
For example, it's not much more than a year
ago that the head-to-head record stood at 16-7 in Rafa's favour. That was
before Djokovic went on his awesome 2011 run and defeated Nadal in seven
Nadal has done a lot to wrestle back the
initiative in the last few months and despite losing in the Melbourne
final, he has recorded important clay court victories over Djokovic in the
finals of Monte Carlo and Rome.
Djokovic can defeat Nadal on clay though
and was the victor in Madrid and Rome just 12 months ago.
In fact, had he managed to come past Federer in last year's Roland Garros final
we might already be talking about Djokovic holding all four slams.
Rafa Nadal has been in outstanding form
across the entire clay court season and other than a blue blip in Madrid, he has an almost
perfect record over the last couple of months.
There's no question that the tennis odds will be favouring the Spaniard and despite him losing the last three
Slam finals to Djokovic he has defeated the Serb twice on clay in the last 8
However, a closer inspection of those two
recent finals suggests all is not lost for Novak. In the Monte Carlo final Djokovic had received the
news just days earlier that his grandfather had passed and whilst he wouldn't
want to use it as an excuse, he clearly wasn't himself in the deciding match
Their last meeting Rome looks, on paper,
like another comfortable, straight sets victory for Rafa, but anybody who saw
that match will recall that Djokovic had chance and after chance to win both
sets but just couldn't finish off points when they were all but his.
If this match comes down to pure ability on
this surface then Nadal should walk away with a seventh title. Djokovic knows
he needs to get into the Spaniard's head. As soon as the doubts start to appear
in Rafa's mind, the Serb will gain the upper hand and Nadal will have to work
hard to regain it.
Nadal could win this one in straight sets,
but with so much at stake it would be no surprise to see this one going the
distance again, and after backing Djokovic from the start, I'm happy to stick
with him in Sunday's belter of a final.
Novak Djokovic to win - 3/1 - Ladbrokes
Novak Djokovic to win 3-2 - 15/2 - Bet
Tie break in match - Yes - 8/11 - BWIN
Total Djokovic games - over 17.5 - 4/5 -
Total sets - 5 - 11/4 - William Hill