Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will face off in the 2012 French Open Final Sunday afternoon, in a championship match with many storylines.
Top-ranked Djokovic defeated Swiss star Roger Federer 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and five minutes to advance to the finals, while Nadal dismantled David Ferrer in his semi-final match with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 victory.
The title match features the top two players in the world battling for the fourth-straight time in a Grand Slam final, and both Djokovic and Nadal are chasing records. Nadal is vying for a seventh Roland Garros title while Djokovic is looking to become the third player to hold all four Grand Slam titles at once, and first since Rod Laver in 1969.
Through six matches in this tournament, Nadal has yet to lose a set and has lost only 35 games. Nadal has played nearly flawless clay court tennis throughout the tournament and has been exceptional with his serve, having won 71-of-72 service games.
Nadal has effectively moved around the court, while his ground strokes have repeatedly hit opponents' lines. The Spaniard, who has shown few signs of weakness, left his semi-final opponent stunned.
There was nothing I could do to fight back, Ferrer said. He put pressure on me when he needed to. I tried to do my best but he was calmer than I was and took control of the match. I didn't have any chance.
In his semi-final match, Djokovic displayed impressive athleticism but has been rather inconsistent in his tournament run. At times the Serbian star has produced remarkable shots, but has shown a penchant for committing a relatively high amount of unforced errors.
Though he managed to save four match points against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and comeback from a 3-0 deficit in his second set against Federer, Djokovic will likely have to turn things around in the final when he faces a more determined and consistent opponent in Nadal, who will be less forgiving of free points.
I know I have to be playing consistently well on a very high level to win a best-of-five against Nadal here, Djokovic said. I can't allow myself to have that many ups and downs, especially in the next match.''
Djokovic should have little room for error against his prominent adversary. The 25-year-old will probably need to substantially limit his unforced errors down, while aggressively moving the ball around the court. If Djokovic gets trapped in long and exhaustive points, Nadal should have a clear edge in the match. Given Nadal's strong serving in the past two weeks, Djokovic will also have to hold his own serve is he hopes to win the title.
Nadal, on the other hand, must continue his consistent and effective serving while keeping Djokovic on defense. If he continues to perform the way he has in his previous six matches, Nadal will be able to frustrate the world No. 1.
Djokovic should be well aware of Nadal's dominance at Roland Garros, and must not only must avoid an error-prone effort, but also frustrate the Nadal with well-placed ground strokes. Otherwise, it should be another easy effort for perhaps the greatest clay-court player in history.
PREDICTION: Nadal in four sets