In a rematch of their 2012 title match, top-ranked Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Novak Djokovic will square off again in the French Open final on Sunday at Roland Garros.
The match will mark the 42nd match between the storied foes, as Djokovic seeks his fifth straight win over Nadal, but also pursues revenge for his ouster in last year’s semifinals and his first slam victory against the Spaniard in the more than two years. Nadal has also won all five of their meetings in Paris.
Nadal could also extend his run as the ATP’s top ranked man while Djokovic may reclaim the No. 1 ranking for the first time since October of last year. Djokovic could have made his move to usurp the top ranking last month if a nagging wrist injury hadn’t forced him out of the Madrid Masters.
Winning 35-straight in Paris, Nadal’s now reached a ninth French final where he maintains a perfect 8-0 record, and can extend his current all-time mark with nine victories in a single slam. Another triumph would also place Nadal in a tie with Pete Sampras with 14 career majors.
Heading into the pivotal match, Nadal holds the top spot but Djokovic may have all the momentum.
Djokovic won two of three sets from Nadal on clay in Rome earlier this year, but hasn’t claimed victory over Nadal in a major since the Australian Open final in 2012. That win was the third straight following successful turns in the U.S. Open and Wimbledon finals versus Nadal in the same year.
Seeking his first French title and hoping to erase a recent 0-3 slide in slam finals dating back to last year, Djokovic has had far more ups and downs during this year’s French.
The 27-year-old Serb required four sets, including a third-set tiebreaker, in the third round against No. 25 Marin Cilic and another four against No. 18 Ernests Gulbis in the semis. In the quarters he dropped No. 8 Milos Raonic in straight sets, but never gained more than a two game advantage throughout.
As far as Djokovic, there’s only one way he can beat tennis’s clay master.
"I'm going to try to be aggressive because that is the only way I can win against him," Djokovic said to reporters after beating Gulbis. "I know that, of course, this is the court he's most dominant on. He has only lost one time in his career. This is where he plays his best."
After quickly dispatching No. 8 Andy Murray in straight sets in the semis, Nadal has now lost only one set during the tournament and improved his career record at the clay slam to 64-1.
Nadal’s lone hiccup came against No. 5 David Ferrer in the quarters when he lost the first set, only to take the next three including a dominating 6-0 third. During an uncharacteristically sloppy match, Nadal committed 31 unforced errors and was successful on only 68 percent of his first serve points.
Bovada.lv Betting Odds: Nadal -130, Djokovic +110
Over/Under: 3.5 sets
Prediction: Djokovic in a five set thriller, with some line judge controversy in the mix as well.