Roland Garros Final Preview: The King of Clay and The King of the Moment Chase History
l to r: Novak Djokovic, in pursuit of the career Grand Slam, will be looking to put a stop to Rafael Nadal’s career domination at Roland Garros.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will meet in their fourth straight Grand Slam final and each has a chance to make tennis history. Djokovic, who has defeated Nadal in three successive Grand Slam finals, has never defeated the Spaniard in Paris; Nadal defeated him in three successive years from 2006-2008. Expanding it further, Djokovic had won seven straight matches against Nadal until the Spaniard triumphed in the finals of both Monte Carlo and Rome.
“I have the chance to break the Borg record because I have already won six. The pressure is the same every year. I am here because I try my best every day and because I have a lot of motivation, the desire to try to win the tournament, not because it’s the seventh, because it’s Roland Garros. It’s one of my top tournaments of the year, if not the most important.So seriously, the extra pressure for me is zero. In the end, if it finally happens, it’s going to be another thing that maybe is important, maybe not that important. For me, the important thing is Roland Garros.”
Nadal, in pursuit of his seventh title at Roland Garros, looks to pass Bjorn Borg’s all-time record at the event. The Spaniard has been in sizzling form, dropping his serve only once in the tournament – in his first match. He has lost only 35 games en route to the final, the fewest he has ever lost en route to a finals appearance in Paris. Borg holds the Open Era record, having dropped 32 games en route the title in 1978. Nadal will also be looking to raise his eleventh Grand Slam trophy, and his first since his four-set win over Roger Federer at last year’s event. Federer, after falling to Djokovic in the semifinals, described Nadal as the “overwhelming favorite” to win the title. Despite his dominant 51-1 record at the event, Nadal refuses to view himself as the favorite:
“I don’t feel I’m the great favourite, as he said, because I’m going to play against the number one.”
Nadal’s Road to the Final:
R1: d. Simone Bolelli (ITA) 62 62 61
R2: d. Denis Istomin (UZB) 60 62 62
R3: d. (Q) Eduardo Schwank (ARG) 61 63 64
R4: d. (13) Juan Monaco (ARG) 62 60 60
QF: (12) Nicolas Almagro (ESP) 76(4) 63 62
SF: d. (6) David Ferrer (ESP) 62 62 61
“I haven’t won a set against him in this court. All the facts are on his side,” Djokovic said. “But, look, I feel different nowadays. I believe I’m at the peak of my career. I’m playing the best tennis of my life in last year and a half, and I should use that. I should use that as a confidence (boost) and try to get my hands on a title.”
As the Spaniard cruised through his half of the draw, Djokovic had a considerably tougher road to his first French Open final. First, he was forced to rally from two sets down against Italian Andreas Seppi in the fourth round, and saved four match points against Frenchman Jo-Wilifred Tsonga in the quarterfinals. Djokovic will be looking to complete the career Grand Slam, as well as be the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four major titles at once. Despite his struggles early in the event, the Serbian hit his stride late in his semifinal against Federer, striking 27 winners and making only 17 unforced errors in windy conditions.
Djokovic’s Road to the Final:
R1: d. Potitio Starace (ITA) 76(4) 63 61
R2: d. Blaz Kavcic (SLO) 60 64 64
R3: d. (WC) Nicolas Devilder (FRA) 61 62 62
R4: d. (22) Andreas Seppi (ITA) 46 67(5) 63 75 63
QF: d. (5) Jo-Wilifred Tsonga (FRA) 61 57 57 76(6) 61
SF: d. (3) Roger Federer (SUI) 64 75 63
Djokovic and Nadal rank first and second for break points converted in the event; Djokovic leads all competitors with 39 break points converted and Nadal is right on his heels having converted 37. As we’ve come to expect, this match will be dominated by long, grinding rallies. Nadal and Djokovic both appear three times on the “Longest Rally Count Leaders” list. Nadal played a 34 shot rally against Almagro, a 32 shot rally against Ferrer and a 31 shot rally against Istomin; he won two of the three points. Djokovic, to his credit, also came out on top in two of the three longest rallies of the tournament; he and Federer had both a 36 and 28 shot rally in the semifinals, and he also played a 30 shot rally against Devilder.
The two have played 32 times in their career, with Nadal leading 18-14. Djokovic leads the head-to-head in Grand Slam finals 3-1, after triumphs in 2011 at Wimbledon and the US Open, and earlier this year in a six-hour epic at the Australian Open. The final will mark the fourteenth time the two have met on clay, where Nadal leads Djokovic 11-2.
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