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Roland Garros men's final: Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal preview, head-to-head & prediction | French Open 2020

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic meet again in a Major final
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic meet again in a Major final
Mihir Gawade
ANALYST
Modified 10 Oct 2020, 15:34 IST
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Match details

Fixture: (1) Novak Djokovic vs (2) Rafael Nadal

Date: 11 October 2020

Tournament: Roland Garros 2020

Round: Final

Venue: Paris, France

Category: Grand Slam

Surface: Red clay

Prize money: Approx. €38,000,000

Match timing: 3 pm CEST, 6.30 pm IST

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Live telecast: USA - NBC Sports / Tennis Channel | India - Star Sports / Disney+ Hotstar VIP

Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal preview

The 2020 French Open is set to come to a conclusion with a blockbuster final between two eternal rivals. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who have won 36 Grand Slam titles combined, face off for the ultimate glory in Paris on Sunday.

Djokovic extended his winning record on clay this year to 11 straight matches, overcoming a late scare posed by Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinals.

At one point it looked as though it would be a comfortable straight-sets win for the Serb, as he served for the match in the third set and also had a match point. Up until that point, the World No. 1 had saved all the 10 break points he had faced.

But it proved to be 11th time lucky for Tsitsipas as he broke back and then broke again to take the set.

The Greek again broke at the business end of the fourth set to push the match to a decider. But Djokovic remained calm in the face of Tsitsipas' surge; the Serb showed his incredible resolve once again to win the fifth set comfortably, and book a place in his fifth Roland Garros final.

Novak Djokovic is gunning for a special feat
Novak Djokovic is gunning for a special feat
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Novak Djokovic is aiming for the unprecedented feat of winning at least two titles at each Slam. But he faces the 'King of Clay', Rafael Nadal, who is on a mission of his own - to tie Roger Federer for the most Slams won by any male player in history.

Nadal faced some troubles too in closing out his semifinal match against the resilient Diego Schwartzman. But the Spaniard managed to get the job done in straight sets as he won the third set in a tiebreak, after losing a break's lead twice earlier.

Contrary to what the 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 scoreline might suggest, the match was tightly contested throughout. The first set lasted 67 minutes, with almost every game going to deuce.

Rafael Nadal is looking for a historic 13th title on his favorite Parisian clay. The Spaniard has never lost a final at Roland Garros, but the conditions this year are nothing like his previous 12 finals. And that could play a big role in deciding the outcome of the match.

Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal head-to-head

The head-to-head between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal currently stands at 29-26 in favor of Djokovic.

No two players in the history of men's tennis have played each other as many times as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have. But the rivalry hasn't been as close lately as the all-time records show.

Djokovic has won 14 out of the last 20 meetings between the pair, and has got the better of Nadal a record seven times on his favorite surface. The most recent meeting between Nadal and Djokovic was at the inaugural ATP Cup final earlier this year, which the Serb won easily.

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Novak Djokovic also won his last match against Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, back in 2015, as well as their last Slam meeting - at the 2019 Australian Open. However, the Spaniard has won all three of their most recent claycourt affairs.

Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal prediction

Novak Djokovic has maintained a high level throughout the fortnight despite facing tough matches in the previous two rounds and dealing with neck problems.

Rafael Nadal on his part has reached his sixth Roland Garros final without dropping a single set. But the Spaniard has looked far from his best level, with a few parts of his game looking less than convincing.

Rafael Nadal will tie Roger Federer in Majors if he wins on Sunday
Rafael Nadal will tie Roger Federer in Majors if he wins on Sunday

Nadal's biggest problem seems to be his weakened defence off the backhand wing. One of the biggest counter-punching weapons throughout his career, the World No. 2's backhand has looked more vulnerable than ever this fortnight.

Nadal hasn't been able to use his crosscourt backhand to turn defence into offence as efficiently as he usually does, and that has prevented him from regaining the advantage in long rallies. The Spaniard has also shown a tendency to hit short when pushed wide, which Djokovic won't fail to capitalize on.

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One of Novak Djokovic's biggest weapons this year on clay has been the drop shot. The Serb has been impeccable in killing the pace of a rally with precise side-spin drop shots, helping him keep the points short and conserve energy for the points he has to grind out.

In Nadal's prime, chasing down drop shots was never a problem given his incredible athleticism and foot-speed. But with age the 12-time champion has shown a considerable decline in speed, and now he often falters in the face of well-disguised droppers.

One play that Rafael Nadal would look to use to his advantage would be the short slice to Djokovic's backhand. The Serb, compromised with neck issues, struggled when given no pace on that side against Tsitsipas; that was one of the major reasons the Greek managed to stay afloat in the third and fourth sets.

However, given that Nadal is left-handed, a slice to Djokovic's backhand wouldn't come naturally to the Spaniard. Nadal would have to adjust his court positioning to run that play consistently.

It is no secret that this is the toughest test Rafael Nadal could have possibly faced in a Roland Garros final. On Parisian soil its greatest champion always has a chance, but given Novak Djokovic's supreme level of play this fortnight, he starts as the favorite.

Prediction: Novak Djokovic to win in four sets.

Published 10 Oct 2020, 14:39 IST
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