French Open: Djokovic, Nadal set for epic clash

Nadal has never lost a French Open final

nadal-djokovic-afp Rafael Nadal (left) will play Novak Djokovic in the men's singles final at the Australian Open tournament | AFP

After surviving a major scare in the semi-finals against Tsitsipas, Novak Djokovic has set himself a tough task in the form of Rafael Nadal in the final. Despite having a match point in the third set, the world number one was forced to dig deep to fight off a spirited comeback from Stefanos Tsitsipas to win 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1 in three hours and fifty four minutes. Nadal beat Argentine Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 to reach his 13th Rolland Garros final.

While Djokovic holds lead in their head-to-head record (29-26), Nadal boasts numbers that brink on being hyperbole at the French Open. The Spaniard will be looking to lift his 13th title in as many finals. That's right. Nadal has never lost a French Open final in his career. Not just that, he holds an enviable record of 99-2 at the French Open. His only two losses came in 2009 (lost to Soderling in the fourth round) and 2015 (lost to Djokovic in the quarterfinals). In the 2016 French Open, Nadal withdrew in the third round due to a wrist injury. Djokovic's lone French Open triumph came in the same year. Their head-to-head record in clay courts also heavily favor Nadal (17-7). Nadal has also won six of their seven meetings at Roland Garros.

The conditions will be a bit different from how it usually is during the final. The French Open is usually played in May, but was pushed to October following the COVID-19 pandemic. The weather is much cooler, something that works to Djokovic's advantage. The ball will also have lesser bounce which suits Djokovic. Having said all that, Nadal always brings his A-game to every match and he is still the man to beat on clay. Djokovic knows he faces a mammoth task as he goes up against the greatest clay-court player of all time.

If Djokovicdefeats Nadal to claim his second Roland Garros crown on Sunday, he will become the first player in the Open Era — and only the third man in history — to win multiple trophies at each of the four major championships. It will also help him close the gap on the all-time Grand Slam titles leaderboard. Federer leads the pack with 20, Nadal 19 and Djokovic with 17 titles. It would be as much a game of numbers as it would be of mettle as both Nadal and Djokovic face off on Sunday at court Phillipe Chartrier.

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