French Open Tennis 2012: What Rafael Nadal Must Do to Keep Momentum at Wimbledon

Dan KuklaCorrespondent IIIJune 11, 2012

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 11:  Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a backhand in the men's singles final against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during day 16 of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 11, 2012 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

After Rafael Nadal quickly dispatched Novak Djokovic to claim his record-setting seventh French Open championship, all eyes quickly shifted to Wimbledon.

If Djokovic is not careful, the 2012 French Open final could become a microcosm of tennis history.

At first, Nadal dominated. He jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in Sunday's first set. That soon became a commanding two-set lead. It all enforced his 51-1 record in this tournament.

Then came the rain of a rival. Djokovic won eight straight games before play was suspended with him leading 2-1 in the fourth set. The run similarly paralleled his 27 consecutive match victories in Grand Slam tournaments, three of which came against Nadal in finals.

Rafa's reign was suddenly in jeopardy.

But when play resumed Monday, everything returned to normal. He finished the match in less than an hour.

The abrupt end to Djokovic's run on Sunday has its historical symmetry as well. With it ended his streak of Grand Slam titles and a shot to win all four in a row.

If history continues to follow suit, a Wimbledon title is next for Nadal.

"An impossible era of tennis has pushed into another impossible level," writes Jason Gay for the Wall Street Journal.

Gay claims that Nadal versus Djokovic is a sports fan's fantasy played out in reality. The rivalry pits two all-time greats against each other during their primes. Basketball fans can only dream of the 1992 version of Michael Jordan playing against today's LeBron James.

Monday's result now makes the plot even juicier heading towards Wimbledon.

Djokovic will be eager for revenge. He may never again come that close to winning all four Grand Slam tournaments in a row.

Nadal will be invigorated by his victory. Losing three consecutive finals to the same man was devastating. Now he knows Djoker can be solved.

Clay has always been Rafa's domain. Seven French Open titles speak for themselves. No one will fault Djokovic for a loss to him in Paris.

Grass, however, is not exactly Nadal's kryptonite.

He boasts an 87.5 win percentage at Wimbledon. He has advanced to the final in each of his last five tournaments there. Most significantly, Nadal owns a 2-1 record against Djokovic on grass.

Djokovic learned his game on clay in Serbia and perfected it on hard courts. That leaves grass as the surface he has the least amount of experience on. He too, however, has proven his ability to play on it with two trips to the Wimbledon semifinals before a win at the All England Club last year.

Anything but another Grand Slam rematch between these two in the 2012 Wimbledon final will be a gigantic upset.

For Nadal, sustaining his French Open momentum comes down to confidence. First he must dominate the rest of clay season. Then he must win key matches on grass this summer.

When—not if—he meets Djokovic again, Nadal must play with the same mindset he held Monday.

Djokovic's reign—and proverbial rain—has been halted. When play resumes in London, Nadal can return everything to normal like he did in Paris.