Chaos reigned supreme on both sides of the French Open draw for much of the tournament. Yet, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic remained the two constants during the two-week event. So it comes as no surprise that they will meet in the men's championship match.
With Stanislas Wawrinka eliminated early, Roger Federer not playing at the same level as years past and Andy Murray still working back toward top form, Nadal and Djokovic are a step above the rest right now. They should prove that on Sunday at Roland Garros.
Once the final comes to a close the focus will quickly turn to Wimbledon. But first, tennis fans should get to enjoy an entertaining back-and-forth encounter between the friendly rivals. Let's check out all of the key details for the clash along with a preview and prediction.
Where: Roland Garros in Paris, France
When: Sunday, June 8 at 9 a.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
There are no secrets left when two players have faced off more than 40 times, as is the case for Nadal and Djokovic. The French Open final will mark the 42nd meeting between the pair with the "King of Clay" holding a negligible 22-19 advantage.
The most recent meeting came in the Rome Masters a couple weeks ago. They battled in the final of the warm-up event on clay and Djokovic came out on top in three sets. It marked his fourth straight victory over Nadal.
They also faced off at Roland Garros last year. That meeting was in the semifinals, but it was still an instant classic as Nadal advanced 9-7 in the fifth set. It was exactly the type of clash that has made the rivalry so interesting over the years.
A discussion before the tournament surrounded which player should be the favorite. Djokovic given his recent success against the top-ranked player, including that win in Rome, or Nadal based on his unmatched track record at Roland Garros.
The question never received a definitive answer. Comments from Nadal passed along by Dan Imhoff of the tournament's official site featured an interesting remark about playing at the French Open as opposed to those losses to Djokovic elsewhere recently:
Novak already has a lot of times positive results here. It's nothing new for him to be in the final. He has the motivation to win Roland Garros for the first time for sure. But at the same time, he has the pressure to win for the first time. I have the pressure that I want to win and the motivation that I want to win the ninth. So I don't see a big difference in that. I'm going to go on court with the same motivation as him. He beat me four times but he never beat me here.
Numbers from ESPN Stats and Info show Djokovic not only hasn't beaten Nadal in the season's second major, but they have been mostly one-sided matches:
That said, they played a close encounter last year and Djokovic should have some added confidence with that Rome win under his belt. The question is whether he has enough firepower to beat Nadal at Roland Garros, one of the toughest tasks in tennis history.
The answer is probably not. The way Nadal dismantled Murray, who had played well leading up to the semifinals and didn't play terribly in them, was a sight to behold. It also showed any pre-tournament concerns about his form should be long gone.
Djokovic wasn't as convincing in his win over Ernests Gulbis. He needed four sets to advance and the grinding style of play definitely seemed to take its toll on him. That's not good news heading into a match against an elite player who allows very few free points.
Expect a tight battle across the board, but it seems like Nadal is in better form right now. Look for him to grab a couple key breaks late in sets to turn the tide in his favor and ultimately win the match in four hard-fought sets.
Prediction: Nadal in four sets
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