It’s Djokovic-Nadal But Once more. However This French Open Duel Is Not Just like the Others.

Males’s tennis lastly bought a brand new Grand Slam champion in New York final month as Dominic Thiem, an Austrian in, of all issues, his 20s won the United States Open.

Lower than a month later, the youth revolution is again on maintain at Roland Garros.

The motion nonetheless can not budge Rafael Nadal, 34, and Novak Djokovic, 33, who will face off in Sunday’s French Open men’s final.

That may be a buzz killer for the youthful set like Stefanos Tsitsipas, who arrived in Paris final month with renewed hope that the lads’s recreation might add a second energetic Grand Slam champion youthful than 30.

However even in spite of everything these years, Nadal versus Djokovic continues to be fairly a dialog starter, and Nadal, who skipped the U.S. Open, and Djokovic, who got himself ejected, will now play for the 56th time.

No different males have performed extra usually on the tour degree within the Open period. Djokovic has a 29-26 edge and has overwhelmed Nadal of their final three Grand Slam matches.

Sunday’s duel may very well be fairly a rumble. Regardless of the end result, will probably be one among their most vital matches.

Information are at stake, together with the document for Grand Slam singles titles, which has progressively come to hold essentially the most weight within the sport.

If Nadal wins, he’ll equal Roger Federer’s document of 20 males’s titles. If Djokovic wins, he’ll transfer into shut vary with 18, which makes this the very uncommon event wherein avid Federer followers may simply be cheering for Djokovic.

“This match is big, one among their most vital,” stated Paul Annacone, who has coached Federer and Pete Sampras. “My largest secret is how Novak’s going to be mentally. He’s been a bit bit on edge the previous few matches, and that’s not an ideal place to be should you’re taking part in Rafa.

“However I additionally suppose Rafa has to regulate his recreation this time greater than Novak,” he stated. “If Rafa simply performs like regular Rafa, it’s going to be a struggle, however I simply suppose Novak is simply too snug in these regular patterns.”

Rod Laver, the good Australian lefthander who gained 11 main titles within the Nineteen Sixties, has stated that he didn’t even maintain observe of his complete. However these titles have grow to be the coin of the realm for right now’s stars.

On this period, not like Laver’s or Bjorn Borg’s, gamers hardly ever skip one of many 4 main tournaments, which have prospered to such a level within the final 30 years that they solid a fair longer shadow over the common tour.

Think about the ladies’s recreation, wherein Serena Williams has gained 73 tour singles titles to Martina Navratilova’s 167 and Chris Evert’s 157. Williams’s enduring excellence within the majors — she has gained an Open-era document of 23, one shy of Margaret Court docket’s 24 — makes her many observers’ choose as the best participant in historical past.

Nadal and Djokovic, like Federer, have hardly shunned the common males’s tour, shuttling amongst continents and taking part in in most Masters 1000 occasions. However the majors stay the store home windows the place they attain the most important viewers. A number of elements have performed a task within the Huge Three’s hoarding of the loot: their tennis genius; advances in vitamin and restoration; their inner drive and want to maintain tempo with one another; and the homogenization of floor speeds, which makes it simpler for the most effective to achieve extra locations.

Nadal has held the document chase at arm’s length, partly due to his heat relationship with Federer and partly as a result of he’s so intent on staying within the now. Djokovic, nevertheless, is kind of completely happy to state that the Grand Slam document is one of his primary goals.

“It tells you about their personalities, greater than something,” Annacone stated. “Rafa form of operates unsure. He creates doubt for himself to inspire himself. Novak has no qualms about laying it on the market. He desires to be extra achieved than Roger and Rafa and, I believe, present all people who has probably not jumped on his bandwagon: ‘See, I’m higher than them. And I’ve overwhelmed them in my prime for over a decade, so I’m the most effective.’”

Nadal has constructed his Grand Slam physique of labor largely at Roland Garros, the place he has gained 12 titles and compiled a 99-2 document since making his smash-hit debut as 19-year-old in clam-diggers and a sleeveless shirt in 2005.

Djokovic is the one energetic participant to have overwhelmed Nadal on the French Open. Robin Soderling, the highly effective Swede who in 2009 was the primary to handle it, is retired.

Djokovic’s victory got here in straight units within the quarterfinals in 2015, which many noticed as a altering of the guard on clay. It has not labored out that means, a minimum of not but.

He was upset by Stan Wawrinka within the French Open last that yr, and although Djokovic did lastly win his first Roland Garros title in 2016, he quickly went right into a tailspin.

Since re-emerging as the sport’s dominant participant, he has but to win a second French Open, whereas Nadal has saved the trophy, the Coupe des Mousquetaires, below lock and key, profitable in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

However Djokovic, now clearly the second-best clay-court participant of Nadal’s period — forward of Federer — is kind of able to prying open the protected.

This had the potential to be Djokovic’s best season if not for the coronavirus pandemic that halted play for 5 months and if not for a lapse in judgment on the U.S. Open. Late within the first set of his fourth-round match in New York towards Pablo Carreño Busta, Djokovic misplaced his serve and struck a ball in frustration, hitting a line umpire within the throat.

He was disqualified for his solely loss in 2020. He’s 37-1 this yr and 11-0 on clay after profitable the Italian Open and proving that his prepare wreck in New York was not going to derail him for lengthy.

After beating Federer on his beloved grass final yr in a five-set last at Wimbledon, Djokovic now will get a shot at beating Nadal on Nadal’s happiest looking floor in a serious last.

The forecast is for prime humidity and temperatures within the 50s — heavy, low-bouncing circumstances that, in principle, favor Djokovic.

Not like Nadal, he doesn’t depend on topspin. Djokovic usually sticks near the baseline and has proved that he can counter Nadal’s whipping forehand by placing the ball successfully proper after it hits the clay. However the decrease bounce ought to make it simpler for him to defend and return — already two of his strengths — significantly together with his two-handed backhand.

Annacone and others consider that Nadal might want to take extra dangers than normal and hit down the road extra usually to have his finest likelihood. Producing constant depth can even be vital.

However that is additionally a psychological duel. Nadal is aware of that Djokovic is probably the one man who can beat him on clay even when Nadal is having one among his higher days.

Djokovic is aware of it, too.

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