So much is on the line today. Nadal is playing his fifth consecutive Grand Slam final and hunting for his seventh Roland Garros crown in an attempt to over take Bjorn Borg in the history books. Djokovic is looking to defeat the King of Clay on his home turf and in doing so complete a career Grand Slam and a Novak Slam – holding all four Slams at the same time (but not in one calender year).
Nadal has been in top form leading into the final, repeatedly bageling opponents, and consistently winning in straight sets. Physically Nadal should have the advantage after Novak was pushed to five sets twice but as we saw in Australia, Novak has a knack for recovering and rising to the occasion against Rafa.
Before meeting Rafa in the Australian finals Novak had all sorts of breathing and physical issues that he recovered from and didn’t seem to restrict him in their almost 6 hour battle to the death which the Serbian came out on top of. Rafa was ultimately also outplayed by the depth of Novak’s returns that took time away from him, giving Nole a very effective offensive position to work from. Novak’s improved service returns and phenomenal forehand will continue to trouble Nadal, particularly if he gives up too much court.
The issue with Novak’s seven consecutive wins over Nadal, including in the last three consecutive Slams, is that there is now doubt in everyone’s mind that the Spaniard can overcome the new and improved Serb.
The pressure to make the history books lays more heavily on the shoulders of Novak. He is fighting for his spot in history whereas Nadal is just looking to build on the entry written under his name – much the same way Federer is as he winds down his career.
Both Nadal and Federer have had chances to hold all four Slams at the same time but something has always stopped them from crossing that barrier. What makes Rod Laver so great is that he did it in a calender year. Twice.
No matter the outcome of this match Rod’s record is more impressive than Novak’s would be even if he thumped Nadal which I doubt he will.
Rafa will be desperate to claim a win over Novak that wasn’t impacted on by the death of Nole’s grandfather like his win in Monte Carlo.
Ultimately I think Nadal will come out on top in four. It is incredibly hard to call, mostly because of what Novak achieved last year, but I’m backing the Spaniard to restore order once and for all in their rivalry.