World number 1 Novak Djokovic faced a tough match from Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinals of the French Open. He needed five sets to dispatch the Greek. And now, on Sunday, he will face even a more formidable challenge from Rafael Nadal, his nemesis on clay. However, with different conditions occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic, this final is expected to live up to its billing, ESPN reports.
Djokovic knows only too well that the conditions at the French Open 2020 aren’t what Nadal is used to (a chilly and wet October edition), yet, he can only hope that things go in his favor on Sunday. Nadal holds the best record at the French Open – 99-2, and Djokovic is only one of the two players to have beaten the “King of Clay.”
There were traces of tiredness in Djokovic during the semi-final match with Tsitsipas. He led 2-0 at some point, which he gave up to stretch the match to five sets. Still, he said he was feeling good and in top shape for the final.
Djokovic said admitted he had struggled in previous French Opens when he said, “this is the Grand Slam that I won the least, so of course I am extremely motivated to try to get my hands on another one.”
As the pair prepares to meet on Sunday, a lot is at stake. While Nadal is trying to match Roger Federer’s men’s record for Grand Slam singles titles (Federer has 20), Djokovic is trying to win his 18th Grand Slam and become the first player in the open era and out of the “Big Four” to win a double career Grand (Rod Laver has won two Calendar Slams – in 1962 and 1969).
The two top seeds will be facing each other for the 56th time in their careers and the ninth time in a Grand Slam final. No other two players have played each other that much.
When asked about his chances against Nadal, Djokovic admitted that the odds favored Nadal.
“Well, isn’t it obvious? He won this tournament so many times that I don’t think any player has won that many times,” he said. “He’s lost twice in his entire career on this court.”
Nadal recognizes that he would be playing at a court he’s called home for much of his career. He was only 19 in 2005 when he cruised to his first title.
“I know it is a court where I have been playing well for such a long time, so that helps,” Nadal said, shortly after beating Schwartzman in the semis.
However, Djokovic knows he stands a huge chance against the Spaniard this time around.
“The conditions are different than the ones we are used to playing in May and June. I think that could be a better chance for me.”
Who makes history on Sunday between these two tennis greats? We have only a few hours to know.