Why Djokovic will Not Beat Nadal or Federer in Paris

Donald FincherAnalyst IMay 21, 2009

PARIS - JUNE 08:  Roger Federer (L) of Switzerland and Rafael Nadal of Spain with their trophies after the Men's Singles Final match on day fifteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 8, 2008 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

There has been a lot of talk on this community about Djokovic's draw at Roland Garros.  The truth is...it doesn't matter.  Some have called him the second best clay court player.  The truth on that is...he's demonstrably not.

First, let's cover the question of the draws and why it won't matter.

Have you ever noticed that Djokovic does much better in tourneys where you only have to win the best of three sets rather than the best of five sets?  There's a reason for this.  Apparently, he's not very durable.  Some players are and some aren't.

While many times this is a matter of conditioning or mental toughness, sometimes one is just injury prone.  I won't comment on which it is in this case as that would be merely speculation on my part. 

However, I do know what the other players think it is.  Whatever the case, his history includes episodes such as the fact that he melted in the heat in Australia this past year when it didn't seem to bother Andy Roddick much at all.  And we are all aware that he constantly calls for the trainers.

I probably don't have to explain this but when Djokovic can put away his early opponents of a tourney in two set matches, he plays 50 percent less tennis before reaching the critical second week.  This is very important to his game. 

He's never gotten to the finals at Paris (a five set match tourney) though he has reached a few finals on clay elsewhere (in three set match tourneys).  And part of this has to do with longer matches and more wear and tear.

Another part of why the draw doesn't matter is my second point...that both Fed and Nadal are better clay court players.  We all know that Rafa is but there seems to be some dispute among those who have been eager to pile on to Fed while he has been slumping as to who is better on clay between Fed and Djokovic.  Here are the facts.

Number of finals reached on clay courts*

Federer 12 Djokovic 7 (one of which was the "home grown" Serbian Open)

Head to head clay court record

Federer 1 Djokovic 1

Wins against Nadal on clay

Federer 2 Djokovic 0

French Open Finals

Federer 3 Djokovic 0

* Many will correctly say Fed's been playing longer which means that he should have more finals on clay. 

However, if you take out the Serbian Open which is owned and operated by Djokovic's family, Fed has doubled him up which seems significant despite having a longer career thus far.  I will, however, admit that this "significance" may be more opinion than fact.

So color me dubious at best to believe that Djokovic will defeat either Rafa or Roger in Paris.  Obviously, all bets are off if either Rafa or Roger gets injured or defeated by another player.  But, assuming Djokovic stays in long enough to meet one of them, I predict he will lose to whichever of the two he encounters.