Novak Djokovic's Final Frontier: Will the Serb end the Spanish Bull's run at Roland Garros?
Riding on his recent success at the Rome Masters, Djokovic must be confident of his chances at the only Grand Slam that has eluded him so far – the French Open,the Serb’s Final frontier.
Despite impressive performances since 2011, success on the clay courts of Roland Garros has proven to be elusive for the Serb. The ‘Djoker’ would look to end the drought this season and hope to join the elite list of players to have won all four Grand Slams in the open era, which includes two of his compatriots Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The Serb’s biggest challenge enroute to lifting the trophy stands tall in the form of 6’1” Rafael Nadal, whose reign over Roland Garros has been just shy of absolute domination.
The ‘King of Clay’ doesn’t seem keen on surrendering his crown just yet. Djokovic will be haunted by memories of a meek defeat by serving a double fault on Rafa’s match point in 2012 and losing a 5-setter in 2013 despite being 4-2 up in the final set.
Djokovic has certainly improved his game on clay as evidenced by his fine run in Italy. A more powerful serve, heavier top spin and a more effective return of serve is poised to trouble his nemesis as it did in the recent Rome Masters final.
But it would be foolhardy to write off the Spaniard based on a three set run-up to the Grand Slam. Nadal seems to save his best for the big occasions and reads the Philippe Chatrier court better than any other player in the history of the game.
What makes Nadal a formidable champion is the fact that despite being the most successful player in the tournament’s history, with an incredible 59-1 win loss record at Roland Garros, the Spaniard still approaches every match with an iota of self-doubt, never underestimating his opponent and over-compensates for it, inevitably punching well above his weight. If anything, the recent loss at Rome will force Nadal to re-evaluate his own strategy ahead of the tournament.
Irrespective of Nadal’s form, Djokovic will have to be at his best to thwart Nadal’s lethal combination of a game which has been scripted for success on clay courts and his mental ability to play the big points, assimilated by sheer domination for most part of the last decade.
This season will prove to be a real test of character for Djokovic if he is to break the Spaniard’s winning streak. Either ways, the French Open is poised for an interesting battle for supremacy between the dominant player of the last decade and a player looking to take his place in history.