Nadal must scale Djokovic wall to reach Federer record
PARIS (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic will meet the clay court king Rafael Nadal in a wonderful French Open final on Sunday. There is more at stake for the two best players in the world than just another Grand Slam title.
In one of the sport's greatest rivalries, Djokovic and Nadal have fought the Serbian leaders 29-26 55 times.
But when it comes to sand, there has never been anyone better than twelve-time Roland Garros champion Nadal, who defeated Djokovic in six of his seven clashes with the French major, including the 2012 and 2014 finals.
However, Djokovic won his last meeting at the French Open in 2015 when he defeated the Spaniard in the quarter-finals. He said this gave him hope for Sunday's showdown.
The winner in Paris will also prevail in his duel in the Grand Slam final, which will be played between the two, with Djokovic and Nadal each having won four times.
Also at stake is what is known as the "greatest battle of all time".
Djokovic was expected to arrive in Paris with 18 Grand Slams by winning the US Open in New York last month, which Nadal skipped due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the 33-year-old was disqualified in his fourth round game at Flushing Meadows when he accidentally hit a linesman with the ball.
Nadal is one behind Roger Federer's 20 majors, and a 13th French Open title on Sunday would equate him with the Swiss, leaving Djokovic behind three times.
"It's the dream final for me," said Eurosport tennis expert and two-time Spanish Roland Garros finalist Alex Corretja.
"... whoever wins will be interesting for tennis. No matter what happens on Sunday, tennis will win the final with Novak and Rafa.
"I think this is the perfect scenario for this Roland Garros final. After this year we needed this kind of game. I'm excited about the final."
34-year-old Nadal complained about the cold weather at the rescheduled French Open, which usually takes place from May to June. The new balls were used for this edition and the late placements.
The unusual conditions had little impact on his performance, however, as the Spaniard didn't lose a set in his six wins at this year's edition.
No player has beaten Djokovic this year, with the failure in New York being his only flaw, but the Serbian showed incredible mental strength and determination to win the Rome Masters after his US Open debacle.
Another win on Sunday makes Djokovic the first man in the Open era to win every Grand Slam tournament at least twice.
"They both know it's an incredible moment to make history," added Corretja. "I think we will see a lot of nerves because they know they are playing for something very special."
Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, who lost to Djokovic in five sets in the semi-finals, said the Serb's game was almost perfect.
Chris Evert, winner of 18 Grand Slams titles, agreed with Tsitsipas.
"Novak is sometimes not human," said Eurosport expert Evert. "I look at Nadal and I see a warrior who fights for everything. He's going to leave blood on the square.
"I look at Djokovic and I see more of a robot, but in a good sense. The mental part of his game is a level ahead of everyone else, it's great. His game is flawless ... he's like a wall, it's hard to do come through a wall. "
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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