French Open 2020 Men's Final: Early Predictions for Rafael Nadal in 2021

Jenna CiccotelliContributor IIIOctober 11, 2020

Spain's Rafael Nadal bites the trophy as he celebrates winning the final match of the French Open tennis tournament against Serbia's Novak Djokovic in three sets, 6-0, 6-2, 7-5, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Michel Euler/Associated Press

Back in May, Rafael Nadal said he believed the 2020 tennis season was "practically lost" due to the coronavirus pandemic. The ATP Tour had been paused for more than two months, and ATP and World Tennis Association events were suspended until July. Wimbledon was canceled, and the French Open was pushed back. 

"I would sign up right now just to being ready for 2021," he told reporters. "I'm more concerned with the Australian Open than with what happens later this year. I think 2020 has been practically lost. I'm hopeful of being able to start next year."

The Spaniard would likely reverse that take now after his outing at the French Open. 

Nadal won his 13th French Open over top-ranked Novak Djokovic on Sunday, earning his 20th Grand Slam singles victory to tie Roger Federer for the all-time record. Djokovic is not far behind with 17 major wins.

"I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion," Federer wrote on Twitter, congratulating Nadal for tying his record. "As my greatest rival over many years, I believe we have pushed each other to become better players."

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The road to breaking that record for the No. 2 player in the world won't get any easier in 2021.

Federer's 2020 season ended early when he underwent knee surgery, but he plans to return in time for the 2021 campaign. If he does, it will set up yet another battle between the top three men's players in the world, and will certainly complicate Nadal's—or Djokovic's—journey to his record.

Federer hasn't won a major since his record-setting Australian Open victory in 2018, when he tied the then-all-time record that was held by Djokovic and Roy Emerson before Djokovic earned his seventh title there in 2019. Federer was ranked No. 1 in the world in 2018 before Nadal took it over with an Italian Open win. That year, he also fell to Djokovic in straight sets at Cincinnati and lost to him again at the Paris Masters.

Nadal controlled much of Federer's 2019 season, when he ousted him in the French Open semifinals before Federer defeated him at Wimbledon in their first meeting there since 2008, setting up a five-round final loss at Wimbledon to Djokovic.

After Federer earned his first win over Djokovic since 2015 in the 2019 ATP Finals, he fell in the 2020 Australian Open semifinals, where he sustained his season-ending injury.

With the tennis world's Big Three slated to be back in action in 2020, Nadal will be on pace to continue his greatness but not without the pressure from having both his rivals back in action.