French Open 2014 Men's Finals: Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic Preview

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French Open 2014 Men's Finals: Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic Preview
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You know, this might get old if it wasn't so exciting. No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Novak Djokovic are set to once again meet in the finale of a Grand Slam tournament at Sunday's men's singles final in the 2014 French Open.

Unbelievably, this will be the 43rd time that the two have met, which is a record in men's singles, per Chris Chase of USA Today:

While some tennis fans might be bored by the monotony of this matchup, who doesn't want to see the two best players in the world facing off in a Grand Slam?

 

When: Sunday, June 8, at 9 a.m. ET

Watch: NBC

Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra

 

The top-seeded Spaniard has come exactly as advertised so far, failing to drop a single set before his four-set quarterfinal victory over No. 5 David Ferrer.

Nadal followed that up with an evisceration of No. 7 Andy Murray. If that match was a prize fight, the 2013 Wimbledon champion wouldn't have answered the bell in the third round.

Murray admitted after the defeat that his previous matches took a lot out of him physically, per Sports Illustrated's Beyond the Baseline:

Djokovic has encountered a little more resistance, but his road hasn't been much more difficult. His semifinal victory sums up his stay at the French Open so far. The Djoker was forced to labor, but nowhere near to an extent that made you think he was under serious threat.

Djokovic did arouse some suspicion when he decided to wait for a few hours to meet the media after his win on Friday. Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times thought that the world's No. 2 player might be coming down with something:

If Djokovic is in fact sick, then it will make his task on Sunday all the more difficult.

Although he's taken the last four meetings overall between the two, Nadal has always gotten the better of him on clay. The 13-time Grand Slam winner has surrendered only three sets to his 2014 final opponent in five matches at Roland Garros, per ESPN Stats and Info:

Djokovic showed signs of progress in last year's semifinal, though it ultimately ended just as their previous four matches. And therein lies the problem: Until Nadal shows visible signs of decline, can he be beaten in the French Open? He's had close calls many times before yet almost always managed to come out on top.

Even Djokovic admitted—possibly tongue in cheek—that his opponent will be the favorite heading into the final:

You can't disagree too much. Nadal has won eight of the last nine French Opens, demonstrated a mastery of the surface few, if any, have shown before and owned Djokovic at Roland Garros in the past.

Nothing the 27-year-old has done so far in this tournament makes you think he'll falter in the final. The Djoker did win the Rome Masters final back in May, but that wasn't the French Open. Nadal is the king until somebody knocks him off again.

The onus is on Djokovic to prove that he's the better player.

One of the biggest things he needs to do in the final is go on the offensive early in the match. When it comes to defense and stamina, Djokovic is one of the best on the tour, but he can ill afford to let Nadal dictate the pace.

He needs to take him out of his comfort zone early, make him sweat and put him on the back foot.

Djokovic said that he will try to be aggressive and ignore any sort of fear factor that comes with playing Rafael Nadal in his kingdom, per Roland Garros:

Plus, if Djokovic is feeling under the weather, he won't be able to handle the constant running and shuffling back and forth just to try and stay in the point.

If Nadal does get the early edge and dictates the pace of the match, that could be all she wrote.

These two have put on some classics before—Sunday should be no different.

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