The world No.1 was disqualified from the US Open for a misdemeanour and he boasts of the head-to-head advantage over world No.2, Rafael Nadal – with 29 victories to Nadal’s 26. Djokovic holds the edge.
In matches on clay, Nadal holds the advantage. In 23 meetings on his favourite surface, Nadal has triumphed 17 times and boasts 12 wins at the French Open, in which he has beaten the Serbian twice – in 2012 and 2014 – and on both occasions Nadal won in four sets.
If Nadal triumphs, then he will equal Roger Federer at 20 Grand Slam titles but if Djokovic gets the victory, he will move to 18, one shy of Nadal, and two of Federer, playing his best tennis.
Djokovic believes he has the added advantage of the tournament being played in October as against the normal dry and humid conditions that prevail in May. “Obviously the conditions are different than the ones that we are used to playing in May and June,” Djokovic revealed to the official tournament website. “I think that could be a better chance for me. Obviously the ball not bouncing as high over the shoulder as he likes it usually.”
Nadal’s mindset is that he will face an impossible task if he does not play his best game against the Serbian. “The only thing I know is to play against Novak, I need to play my best.
“Without playing my best tennis, the situation is very difficult. I know that it is a court that I have been playing well for such a long time, so that helps. But at the same time, he has an amazing record here, too, being in the final rounds almost every single time. It is one of the toughest opponents possible.”
Nadal has won every final he has contested on Court Philippe-Chatrier – a record Djokovic believes hands the Spaniard a major advantage. In his entire career, Nadal has lost just twice at the French Open – in 2009 to Robin Soderling in the round of 16 and in 2015, to Djokovic in the quarterfinal.
Djokovic continued: “He’s [Nadal] lost twice in his entire career on this court…
“Yeah, I mean, look, regardless of the conditions, he’s still there, he’s Rafa, he’s in the finals and we’re playing on clay. Best-of-five playing him in the finals at Roland-Garros, I know that feeling. I did lose to him on this court most of the matches that we played, but I also won one match in 2015 in straight sets in quarters.”
So, what will give on Sunday when the clay artist faces off against the best return expert in the game. This will be exciting!