Italian Open 2019: Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic preview
After one week of spectacular tennis, it has narrowed down to a final showdown between the World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and his arch-nemesis Rafael Nadal. It would be a record 54th meeting between the two greats. The World No. 2 will be looking to avenge his defeat at the hands of Djokovic at the Australian Open final this year.
Both the players have won a record 33 ATP Masters 1000 titles each. It will be intriguing to see who will end up as the undisputed number one of the list.
The duo have faced each other 53 times over the course of their careers, which is the highest number of matches played between any two players in the Open Era.
Djokovic leads 28-25 in head-to-head meetings but Nadal leads 16-7 in their clay court encounters. Their last meeting was at the Australian Open final this year which Djokovic won in straight sets by completely outplaying Nadal.
The duo's last match on clay was last year in the semi-finals of the Italian Open which Nadal won in straight sets.
The Serbian is in scintillating form and has upped the ante after winning the Madrid Open convincingly. He showed his superb defensive skills in his quarter-final clash against Juan Martin del Potro by winning the second set tie-breaker and forcing the match into the decider. He then sailed through the semifinal clash against Diego Schwartzman despite losing the second set (6-7).
Djokovic's lethal backhand and service returns have often been good enough to fend off Nadal. The World No.1 will be looking to silence the doubts about whether he can win Roland Garros later this month by beating the "King of Clay" in Sunday's final.
The World No. 2 has entered his first final on clay this year after disappointing performances in Madrid, Barcelona and Monte Carlo. He has peaked at the right time as he has lost just 13 games en route the final.
If he loses today, it would be first time since 2015 that he would not have won a single claycourt tournament in the European swing prior to the French Open.
Nadal needs to play closer to the baseline and use his forehand aggressively if he wants to have any chances of winning.
One thing is certain: whoever wins the final, will be the favourite to win Roland Garros 2019.