Losing is a foreign word for them. But today only one can win …
Novak Djokovic (33) against Rafael Nadal (34). Number one in the world against the best clay court player of all time. In the final of the French Open today in Paris (3 p.m. live on Eurosport and in the BILD live ticker) there will be a duel of the (quasi) invincible.
Djokovic won every game that he finished regularly that year. Whether at the Australian Open, the ATP Cup, the Masters in Cincinatti and Rome or the tournament victory in Dubai – the Serb was simply unbeatable. Only once did he manage to do this himself, losing in the second round of the US Open due to disqualification against the Spaniard Pablo Carreno-Busta. Djokovic had knocked away a ball out of frustration and hit a linesman in the neck.
The only small shadow on his brilliant annual record: 38 games, 37 wins.
Nadal has had 21 wins so far in 2020, and had to accept five defeats. But: The Spaniard is still the undisputed king of the clay court on the tour. If Boris Becker referred to Wimbledon as his living room back then, the French Open is Nadal’s bedchamber.
Djokovic knows that too: “He is at home here. Playing on clay against Rafa at Roland Garros is the greatest challenge there is ”
Success today would mean Nadal’s 13th title in Paris. In addition, he would then come to exactly 100 victories on the red ashes of Paris. His breathtaking French Open record so far: 99 wins with only 2 (!) Defeats.
He conceded one of them completely surprisingly in 2009 in the round of 16 against the Swedish outsider Robin Söderling. The other goes to the account of today’s opponent. In the last Paris duel between the two, Djokovic even achieved a three-set success in the 2015 quarter-finals.
“I will look back on this match and try to remember the positive aspects and find good tactics against him,” said Djokovic after his semi-final victory against the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The eternal duel
However, tactical surprises should remain the exception between Djokovic and Nadal. The tennis giants know each other too well. Today they meet for the 56th time – there has not been a more frequent duel in the history of professional tennis.
Djokovic leads in direct comparison with 29:26. But: So far, they have dueled 15 times in Grand Slams, and Nadal prevailed nine times. In Paris he even won six out of seven comparisons. “Home advantage” Nadal.
However: Nadal has to make friends with a new wallpaper in his bedroom this year. Instead of the usually dry summer conditions when the French Open is scheduled to take place in May, the cooler temperatures of around 15 degrees and the damp sand could suit Djokovic.
“I think Rafa has to change his game more than Novak,” analyzes coach legend Paul Annacone, who coached Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, among others, in the “New York Times”. “If Rafa only plays like the normal Rafa, it will be a tennis war, in which Novak will feel more comfortable in the end.”
Since Nadal’s exceptional topspin on the slower surface is less high and aggressive this year, the Spaniard has to take more risk than usual, more on direct wins.
“Of course the conditions are different than usual when we played in May or June,” says Djokovic: “But, hey, regardless of that, it’s Rafa, it’s a final and it remains sand”.
The duel of the seemingly invincible is not only about the title and prize money of 1.6 million euros, but also about the next exclamation mark in the three-way battle with Roger Federer (39) for the most Grand Slam triumphs overall. The Swiss (20 title wins) is still ahead here, the somewhat younger Djokovic (17 titles) wants to move closer. Nadal (19) could already draw level with Federer with a win today.
The Spaniard, who is not a fan of extravagant predictions: “I will give everything to make this happen.”
Whoever it hits, today an invincible is conquered …