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French Open 2020 final, Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic: Preview, numbers, strategy, prediction

Nadal holds the edge at Roland Garros, winning six of their seven matches including two finals. Djokovic has however won 10 of their last 13 meetings and one of which includes his comfortable victory against Nadal in French Open 2015 quarters. 

Aratrick Mondal Aratrick Mondal
New Delhi Published on: October 11, 2020 10:19 IST
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal
Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal

In Rafael Nadal's 101 appearances at Stade Roland Garros, he lost only twice. As clear favourite as it may make him to win his record 13th title, especially with his 12-0 record in a French Open final, Nadal would face one of those two opponents on Sunday at Court Philippe Chatrier. Djokovic's invincible run this season and Nadal's dominant run to the French Open final has been the only constant amid the disruption caused to the sport owing to the pandemic, and their face-off in the final at Roland Garros will not just be the ultimate test for either stalwarts, but it will also be a sight for the sore eyes for tennis fans across the globe. 

Head-to-Head tie: 

Sunday's meeting will be their record 56th ATP encounter, with the Serb leading the head-to-head tie 29-26. However, Nadal holds the edge in Grand Slam matches with a 9-6 record. 24 of those 55 matches have been played on clay and Nadal, once again, leads with 17 wins, seven of which have come in finals. The Spaniard also holds the edge at Roland Garros, winning six of their seven matches including two finals - 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 in the 2012 and 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 in the 2014.

Djokovic has however won 10 of their last 13 meetings, nine of thise coming in straight sets, and one of which includes his comfortable victory against Nadal in French Open 2015 quarters. 

Stats on the line...

- A win for Nadal will see tie hm with Roger Federer at the top of the all-time major tally with 20 titles. His presently tally of 19 majors included four US Open trophies, two at Wimbledon, one Australian Open trophy and a record 12 at the Roland Garros. For Djokovic, with the 18th major he will be able to reduce the gap at the top with one to separate him from Nadal and two from Federer. 

- A win for Djokovic will make him the first man to beat Nadal twice at Roland Garros. He had defeated Nadal in his last meeting at the venue with a straight set win in the quarterfinal. Robin Soderling in 2009 was the only other player and first to defeat Nadal on Parisian terre battue.

- Both players will be aiming to become the first male tennis player in Open Era to win six majors after turning 30. Nadal will also be hoping to join Djokovic to become the second man in Open Era to win a Grand Slam title in three different decades - 2000s, 2010s and 2020s. 

Numbers in Roland Garros 2020...

- Both reached the quarterfinal without dropping a set, but while Nadal continued the clean run into the final, Djokovic dropped four sets, two each against Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarters and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semis. 

- The Mallorcan Bull has converted 38 of his 48 break points in this tournament, implying a break-point conversion rate of 79.2. His average career rate is 45 per cent. Djokovic's conversion rate this tournament has been 53.2. 

- Both have been dominant on their first serves, but Nadal (63.4 %) stands ahead in the second serve against Djokovic (52.8%). 

Strategy:

- Djokovic has the ability to maneuver Nadal's impressive crosscourt forehand with his inside out forehand across to the empty court. But needs to be wary of the angle which ought to be widish and disallow Nadal from sprinting across for return before serving a heavy forehand return. 

- For Djokovic, the drop shots which he has often used this tournament, will be the key on the damp and low-bounce clay. But again, to execute that he needs to force Nadal off the court. Nadal does not just have excellent speed, owing to the conditions this season, he has been standing closer to the baseline than usual to counter the low-bounce issue. 

- High bouncy returns have been the key for Nadal in each of his Roland Garros runs. But conditions this time around has offered low bounce for which Nadal has been standing closer to the baseline. Yet he has has been able to generate bounce as seen in the semis match. Those loopy shorts will be key, if hit down the middle.

Prediction: Nadal 

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