Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic in straight sets to go level with Roger Federer on 20 grand slam titles
Rafa Nadal was almost perfect against Novak Djokovic and won his 13th French Open title - AP
Drop shot could be the key to the final result
Tennis Djokovic versus Nadal - who will win?
Covid means Nadal can't bite the trophy like he can't with any piece of Grand Slam cutlery
Nadal's mask means he can't do his usual trophy celebration - GETTY IMAGES
Nadal admits that he would have preferred to win in front of crowded stands
“We are very happy that we can continue our sport. Many thanks to Roland Garros for this event and support.
"This dish is the most important dish in my career, it's difficult circumstances. In some cases it wasn't happy because we can't celebrate the way we want - with the fans here. I really hope when we next time are here, we can celebrate this beautiful new stadium with all the fans. "
Djokovic is gracious in defeat
“Congratulations to Rafa. What you do in this place is amazing. Not just this dish, but every dish in your career - you are the king of clay and I've seen this more than once in my career!
"I am disappointed with the way I play but I am grateful that we were able to play this tournament and thanks to everyone who made it possible."
Djokovic admitted that he was simply playing against a better player - SHUTTERSTOCK
Rafa reveals a love affair we all knew about
But what a wonderful relationship!
“This victory means everything to me. I don't think too much about 20th and level with Roger, I just think about winning at Roland Garros, I love it here. Just playing here is an inspiration, I have a love affair with this tournament and this city. "
Loved! Nadal and the love of his tennis life, the red clay by Roland Garros - GETTY IMAGES
What an achievement by Nadal
New stadium, new balls at Roland Garros, but it was the same result in Paris.
Nadal's first two sets were as perfect as I can remember Nadal - that says something when you consider how dominant he is on the red clay in Paris.
The scoreline suggests that Djokovic has been demolished. BUT he has played more than his role in a match that reached heights rarely seen on a tennis court before.
If there is one constant in tennis, Nadal does not lose at Roland Garros and not even the brilliant Djokovic can find a way out of that fact.
NADAL WINS 6-0, 6-2, 7-6 !!!
Nadal serves the match of love and wins with an ace!
It is lucky that Nadal and his 20th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros can keep up with Roger Federer at the top of the tennis tree.
What a player, what an achievement - just great.
Nadal * 6-0, 6-2, 6-5 Djokovic (* next server)
Nadal wins the first point of the game (if he does this when his opponent serves, he wins the game 66 percent of the time - that's a good statistic!). Djokovic may not know this statistic, but this game is one of the 66 percent as Nadal brings the game to 30 due to a double mistake. He is now serving for his 13th French Open title!
Nadal 6-0, 6-2, 5-5 Djokovic * (* next server)
The Nadal forehand is relentless - a machine that rarely comes to a standstill. It's featured a couple of times in this game as the Spaniard holds 15.
Nadal * 6-0, 6-2, 4-5 Djokovic (* next server)
Djokovic is under pressure at 30-30. He pulls out a big first serve - apparently his biggest today - and should hold serve from 40 to 30, but another weak second serve (a feature of his game this afternoon) allows Nadal to dominate and Djokovic in a mistake, one Backhand, forcing into the net.
Then there's a bit of Nadal brilliance that hits a drop shot before Djokovic is forced to give a weak backhand strike to determine a forehand winner. Another breakpoint for the Spaniard, but Djokovic hits his first big second serve of the day and it's a two. From there, the number 1 in the world holds up well and wins the game with a big forehand punch. Good mental resilience from the Serb.
The number of casual errors is ...
Djokovic 40-13 Nadal
Nadal 6-0, 6-2, 4-4 Djokovic * (* next server)
Djokovic's drop shot doesn't work for him at the moment, it's below 50 percent and another drop shot error (into the network) puts Nadal in the lead 15-0. He hits 40-15 but it's clear Djokovic hits the ball better in that set and some big groundstrokes force Nadal to hit for 40-30 for a long time. But world number 2 holds 30 for 4-4 in the third.
Nadal * 6-0, 6-2, 3-4 Djokovic (* next server)
This is more like the confident Djokovic we all know (and some, definitely not all, love).
It lasts until 15 in a short time.
Nadal 6-0, 6-2, 3-3 Djokovic * (* next server)
Djokovic looks a bit abandoned out there now. He makes too many mistakes and has to be at the top of his game to even keep up with Nadal at the moment. A long backhand gives Nadal the early advantage. From there, the Spaniard makes a mistake of his own (a collector's item in the last two hours) and hits the net for 15-30. He does another to give the world number 1 just his fourth breakpoint of the game. BUT THEN NADAL somehow not only gets a Djokovic drop shot, but also plays a cross-court volley that the Serb can only give back a long way.
At deuce, Djokovic gets another break for the first time when Rafa scores for a long time. This time around, he makes no mistake when he hits the net to hit a backhand winner across the board. DJOKOVIC BREAKS BACK.
I didn't see this coming ... Play on?
Nadal * 6-0, 6-2, 3-2 Djokovic (* next server)
The Nadal forehand is so destructive (see clip below), but at the same time so safe. He plays another wonderful forehand winner for 0-30. Djokovic has the feeling that he has to take risks now and scores long to give Nadal three breakpoints. Another mistake follows when the Serb hits him on the net. NADAL BREAKS.
Is that now curtains for Novak? I think it might be good.
Nadal 6-0, 6-2, 2-2 Djokovic * (* next server)
The pair swap groundstrokes from the back of the court - brutal but impressive - Nadal then changes direction to play a nifty drop shot that Djokovic can't match - sheer brilliance. That makes it 15-15, next Djokovic hits an atypical wide cross-court backhand. This mistake is offset by a long forehand from the Spaniard.
With 30-30 Djokovic hits a long backhand - he has no room for mistakes at the moment and those mistakes hurt him. Nadal finished the game as a backhand winner.
Nadal * 6-0, 6-2, 1-2 Djokovic (* next server)
The Serb is under pressure again when he serves between 15 and 30. He is currently in pure survival mode and is just trying to hold on to his serve. However, this strategy won't work if your forehand isn't working as well as it can. He hits wide to give Nadal a breakpoint.
Djokovic returns to his second serve on the next serve and benefits in part from a great first serve. From there, Nadal barely hits a backhand and the world number 1 holds.
Djokovic's drop shot
Nadal 6-0, 6-2, 1-1 Djokovic * (* next server)
The first point of the game is more like the dominant Djokovic we saw in Paris up until the last two hours. He hits a series of strong groundstrokes from the baseline that pin the Spaniard down on the back of the court before playing a big forehand winner. Nadal holds on, however, and lasts until 30.
This game summed up the problem for the Serb - he has to be perfect every time to gain a foothold in this game. He hasn't really looked like he's going to break Nadal's serve yet.
Nadal * 6-0, 6-2, 0-1 Djokovic (* next server)
This is the start of the third set that Djokovic would have wanted, he stops at 15.
Jim Courier speaks
On what he sees ...
"It's a flawless performance from Nadal at the moment. Djokovic played this set well, but it's still a one-way street."
On what Djokovic has to do ...
“He always has to play better and hope that Nadal will be out a little. But it's hard to see that change. "
NADAL GOES TWO SETS 6-0, 6-2
Nadal has three set points. But Djokoivc attacks and brings it to 40-30. Nadal is then warned that he is taking too long and hits the net for the first time. Djokovic then hits the second serve far and long and the Spaniard has a lead of two sets.
He's on a different level - how many times have we said that about the Spaniard at Roland Garros?
While the scoreline suggests otherwise, this isn't a steamroller job, but Djokovic does play his part in a great match.
Nadal * 6-0, 5-2 Djokovic (* next server)
Just what Djokovic needed - a simple service game. He wins by 15. Only his second game of the game.
Back to the casual bug count. Compared to Nadal's three, Djokovic is 28.
Nadal 6-0, 5-1 Djokovic * (* next server)
POW! Nadal can't go wrong at the moment. Djokovic remains very good on the points, but the Spaniard is just too good at the moment. He hits a forehand winner at 100 mph for 40-0 to end the game and love the next point with another forehand winner.
99 points in the game so far Rafa has ONLY made three unforced mistakes.
Sit back and season with salt
Nadal * 6-0, 4-1 Djokovic (* next server)
Djokovic's forehand doesn't behave the way he would like, he hits the net too often and it's his casual number of mistakes (22 on the last count) that explains the goal line as well as Nadal's quality. Another statistic that explains the score is that only 3 percent of Djokovic's serves are not returned.
Nadal has another breakpoint that the Serb saves. Then another fascinating point. Djokovic somehow returns a Nadal punch before Nadal conjures up a remarkable volley winner SUBLIME. Then he breaks again.
Nadal 6-0, 3-1 Djokovic * (* next server)
Nadal is rarely under the same pressure as Djokovic. But it's a two and Djokoivc asks questions about Rafa's serve for the first time.
First, Nadal goes to his trusted forehand for a cross-court winner, and then Djokovic, who has made a brilliant return, hits the net.
Setting a breathtaking standard
Nadal * 6-0, 2-1 Djokovic (* next server)
Nadal was more than happy to do big backhands, but he still prefers to run around his forehand and as the first point of the game he does exactly that to play a crosscourt winner - great to look at. Next up is Vintage Nadal, he sees a void few would have seen and plays a backhand winner down the line.
Djokovic wins the next two points for 30-30, but he's under pressure next when he hits a long forehand and Nadal has a breakpoint. Perfection next from Djokovic as he plays a forehand winner straight into the corner. But the Spaniard still has a BREAK POINT and again Djokovic attacks Nadal's forehand from serve and saves - bravely.
But Nadal has his third breakpoint of the game when he plays a delicate cross-court volley after a drop shot from Djokovic. RAFA BREAKS AGAIN when Djokovic goes online.
Anything imperfect from the Serbian will be punished.
Nadal 6-0, 1-1 Djokovic * (* next server)
Djokovic makes it to 15-30. Is there a slight change in sentiment after the Serb won his first game? Not really, as Nadal holds on 30. Did I already say that this is a sensational tennis level? Yes? Of course ... but I'll keep saying it because it is. What a time to be alive (not sarcastically said ...)
Nadal * 6-0, 0-1 Djokovic (* next server)
This is a virtuoso performance by Nadal. He has two more breakpoints. The first is saved with a booming forehand winner from Djokovic. The second is saved when Nadal hits a backhand wide.
In a duel, Rafa gives his third breakpoint of the game through a forced mistake - wide forehand - and, as in the first game, the Serb saves him with a majestic forehand winner. You swap backhand into the net for two and from there the number 1 in the world holds. Safe to say he needed this.
Nadal takes the first set 6-0
Commentators say this is the best 6-0 set anyone has ever lost in the history of the sport. It's not difficult to disagree. Usually a 6-0 is a 20-minute affair, 45 minutes. Djokovic doesn't play badly, it's just that Nadal plays brilliantly and wins all the big points.
Nadal * 5-0 Djokovic (* next server)
Djokovic looks good at 40-0, the kind of service game he needs. But from there he doubles the mistakes and next he hits a bad second serve that allows Nadal to reach 40-30. It's a two when Djokovic goes online. Another mistake by the Serbian gives Nadal another break point ... There are two of them again when Djokovic hits a fearsome forehand winner.
Djokovic is under pressure and collapses after a cut backhand finds the net. THAT'S BRILLIANT TENNIS as the next point. Both would do well to stay in the rally before Djokovic brings Nadal into the net with his umpteenth drop shot and wins the point with a forehand on the open court. But he mixes fine shots with some mistakes and Nadal has another chance to take a 5-0 lead. What he does to a backhand cross-court winner.
NADAL BREAKS AGAIN.
Djokovic collapsed from 40: 0, his second serve was under so much pressure. He played 41 minutes and has yet to win one game.
Nadal 4-0 Djokovic * (* next server)
One thing that was obvious is that Djokovic is attacking Nadal's forehand, not many do. But Nadal has all the answers right now - it's an intense and impressive start (when is he none of those things at Roland Garros?) For number 2 in the world.
At 30-15 they both land on the net, swap drop volleys and show great interest in geometry - Djokovic prevailed in this fight of the angle. The Serb then makes a great return before reaching his first breakpoint. Nadal then calls in a forehand winner to get the Spaniard back into phenomenal motion so he can swing hard.
But Djokovic returns hard and Nadal plays for the Serbian’s second breakpoint. It hits for a long time and there are two of them again. The next point is great for both players - an exhibition of skill and class - they both hit the net, both dragging each other around the pitch before Nadal hit the net for Djokovic's third breakpoint. AGAIN, Nadal plays a strong backhand on the cross court to win the decisive point.
From there, Nadal holds serve and wins with an ace
Nadal * 3-0 Djokovic (* next server)
Impressed by Rafa very early on - he hits his backhand almost as hard as his forehand and tells Djokovic that he wants to dominate. It has two breakpoints. At 15-40, Nadal is excellent in defense before coming into the net. Djokovic would do well to stay on the point and then hit a big backhand for the point. But Djokoivc plays a bit loose, makes more mistakes than expected and hits the next point in the net and NADAL BREAK AGAIN for a lead of three games.
Nadal 2-0 Djokovic * (* next server)
Nadal gets the forehand up and running early - the usual huge top spin everyone can see. They both exchange large groundstrokes from the baseline. Nadal hits a booming two-handed backhand to score 30-15. At 40-15 Down, Djokovic meets the Spaniard in the backhand and hits a brilliant cross-court winner. After reaching a croaking forehand that Nadal fires, he can hit twice and then hit for a long time. The Spaniard takes the game without taking any break points.
This is a very good game in itself - high levels of tennis, not a big shock.
Nadal * 1-0 Djokovic (* next server)
Djokovic mocked the first serve, he wins the first point of the game (no statistics on the importance of it because it isn't) but next, Nadal looks confident to move the Serb off the baseline before the world number 1 a forehand hits the net for 15-15.
We only had to wait three points before the first drop shot, Djokovic played him (148th of the tournament from him) and it got him the point. In the next point, Djokovic plays another drop shot. Nadal gives it back, but the Serb wins by 40-15. The drop shot is played again by Welt Np.1 - this time on the net.
Nadal then plays a fine backhand on the cross-court, well within the baseline for Deuce. Next he plays a scratchy forehand that Djokovic plays for a long time and NADAL HAS BREAK POINT. He's the first to drop out after doing very well to stay on point. Djokovic hits the backhand far and is under early pressure.
The gladiators have arrived
No more grandiose language from me, I promise. The players are on the pitch (under the roof) and we are only moments away from the start.
Who will win? Both could win and it wouldn't be a shock, despite Nadal's amazing record at Roland Garros. I'm not going to transform into Mystic Meg, but one thing is for sure - there will be long rallies, and even if it's over in three sets (I can't see this for myself) it will be a long (ish) affair.
Djokovic needs some kind of redemption for 2020?
The Serb has always been a kind of Marmite and this year Exhibit A is in the dispute as to why. It is fair to say that this strange year has not gone according to plan for any of us. But it went pretty bad for Djokovic (if you're not a fan) and could have gone better (even his biggest fans would agree.)
Here is our own Simon Briggs on Djokoivcs 2020 ...
In that bizarre year he made more headlines than the other tennis players in the world combined. Everything started predictably enough in Australia in January, where he drove Serbia to victory in the first ATP Cup and Dominic Thiem led to the first slam of the season.
But then it got a little strange. Djokovic's strange views on medicine - he believes gluten intolerance will weaken your muscles the moment you pick up a slice of bread - have been highlighted by the pandemic.
He voiced public skepticism about vaccines - which resulted in Serbia's leading epidemiologist politely suggesting to remain silent - and then headed an exhibition event in the Balkans that resulted in four leading players signing Covid-19, including himself.
2020 was a strange year for all of us, but especially for Djokovic - AP
Even when the players gathered in New York in mid-August to promise a month of uncomplicated hitting the ball, Djokovic still caused controversy. He enraged the people who run the men's tour by creating a new players' association. And then, most dramatically, he eliminated himself from the US Open by accidentally punching a line woman in the throat.
A tough year for the world's number 1? Maybe, but also an incredibly dominant one. After 38 games, meeting Pablo Carreno Busta in the fourth round in the New York tournament remains the only mistake. Had it not been for the temperament that earned him his first major failure in 30 years, he would probably have won an 18th title at this level. Even now, he remains on the path to 2020 without losing to anyone but the Grand Slam rulebook.
After that match - whoever wins - it's inevitable that the centuries-old debate about who's the greatest of all time (GOAT if you're not up to date) gets its sometimes boring head (it's Federer, ok? End of Debate Many obviously disagree, and it's not difficult to see why.)
Let's hear from Diego Schwartzman, who was beaten by Nadal in the semi-finals.
"I won't say who is the better," said Schwartzman when asked about the different challenges Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have to face.
“But I can say the best thing about these three guys is how different they are on and off the pitch.
“One likes to play on sand, the other on grass. Also one left, the other aggressive, the other slipping like nobody else. I really enjoy seeing these guys on tour and playing against them. "
Are you allowed to have three goats?
News only in ...
It's raining in Paris (it's raining in Europe in autumn, who knew?) So the roof will be up during the game.
Former British No. 1 Mark Petchey believes the indoor conditions will not affect the out. The brilliant Fabrice Santoro believes he will give Djokovic an easy advantage. His reasoning is that windy conditions tend to help Nadal.
Nadal's familiar (slightly OCDish) routine
This pre-drilling machine belongs to Roland Garros as well as the red clay.
STAT ATTACK before the game!
I took a look at the very good ATP page and stumbled upon these stats. Make it what you want.
MUST WIN THE FIRST SET
The winner of the first set has won their last 13 games. The player who earned the first set is 48-7 total.
UNLESS YOU ARE NADAL WITH ROLAND GARROS
The 2014 Roland Garros final, won by Nadal in four sets, was one of seven games played by a player in his rivalry.
NADAL OWNS ROLAND GARROS (not revealing, I admit ...)
Nadal (99-2) and Djokovic (74-14) are No. 1 and No. 2 in Roland Garros' victories.
FIRST FRENCH OPEN BATTLE FOR FIVE YEARS
This is the first meeting between Djokovic and Nadal since 2015 that Djokovic has won in straight sets. Nadal won the other six battles in that tournament.
DJOKOVIC HAS FINAL ADVANTAGES
Djokovic has won 10 of his last 13 games, nine of which were achieved in straight sets.
Before we focus on the big battle ...
... let's take another look at the new star of the women's game. Iga Swiatek was brilliant during her straight set win against Sofia Kenin. The vacant teen has made her mark on the big stage and there is no doubt that she will be the one to beat for the next few years. They lost just 23 games en route to the final and, as Simon Briggs wrote, conquered the French capital "with insignificant ease".
Here is Simon's report on yesterday's final.
Strike a pose - Iga Swiatek with the trophy and the mandatory shot of the Eiffel Tower - GETTY IMAGES
Back to the old normal state
Normal service was resumed in Paris, where Rafael Nadal (who else) and Novak Djokovic are contesting their 56th career fight in the French Open final today.
After Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev metaphorically held the beer of the big three at the US Open, the two best players again lock the horns for a Grand Slam title.
Today's story is written when either Nadal or Djokovic lifts the Coupe des Mousquetaires (is there a cooler trophy in sport? Answers to a postcard please ...) later at Philippe Chatrier Court.
Djokovic was the first man in the Open Era to win all four majors multiple times should he win his second French Open title.
The Serb was expected to arrive in Paris with an 18th Grand Slam title by winning at Flushing Meadows last month, which Nadal skipped due to concerns about the coronavirus 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.
Djokovic says he will play exactly as he did when he beat Nadal in straight sets at Roland Garros in 2015 - EPA
There are more numbers associated with this clash of the titans than there is with a Premier League footballer's bank account.
In response to the challenge that lies ahead of Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets immediately after this semi-final victory, Djokovic said: “I'm fine. I think a day and a half will be enough time for me to recover. I've lost most of the games we've played to him [Nadal] on this course, but I also won one in 2015. This is the game that I'll look back on and try to take tactical action against him. "
The 2015 game that the world number 1 was talking about was the quarter-finals when Djokovic won 7-5, 6-3, 6-1. It was only the second time (and the last time) that Nadal had lost at Roland Garros, and it was a double shock as he was not only beaten but also beaten. Djokovic hit 23 forehand winners compared to Nadal's three. What status that is. So Nadal, you have been warned.
Stay here for all pre-game analysis, the players will be on the pitch at 2pm CET….
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