Michel Euler/Associated Press
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will meet for the ninth time in a Grand Slam final Sunday at the 2020 French Open.
The two legendary players have not met in a title clash at a major since the 2019 Australian Open. Most of their head-to-head showdowns in Grand Slam finals occurred at the start of their reigns atop the men’s game alongside Roger Federer.
Nadal is chasing after his 20th overall major and 13th crown on the clay at Roland Garros, while Djokovic is trying to capture his second title in Paris and 18th overall major.
As he typically does in Paris, Nadal dominated his first six matches on the path to the final, as he won every set.
Djokovic faced more difficulties in the previous two rounds, and he will enter at a disadvantage based off those recent struggles and Nadal’s career-long form on clay.
French Open Men’s Final Information
Start Time: 9 a.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports app or NBCSports.com
Prize Money: Winner earns $1.88 million
Rafael Nadal over Novak Djokovic
All of the statistics in Nadal’s favor suggest the Spaniard will come away with his 13th Roland Garros title.
Nadal is 17-7 against Djokovic on clay courts and 6-1 versus the Serbian at the French Open.
Although the numbers are overwhelmingly in Nadal’s favor, he admitted that he must play a solid match against Djokovic, per ATPTour.com.
“The only thing I know is to play against Novak, I need to play my best. Without playing my best tennis, [the] situation is very difficult. I know that it’s a court that I have been playing well on for such a long time, so that helps. But at the same time, he has an amazing record here too. [He’s] one of the toughest opponents possible,” Nadal said.
Nadal has not beaten Djokovic on the Paris clay since the 2014 final. Djokovic took the most-recent Roland Garros showdown in straight sets in the 2015 quarterfinals.
In their two final meetings at the French Open, Nadal took six of the eight sets and won two of those by three games or more.
Nadal has gotten better with age at Roland Garros, as he won eight of his last nine sets in the men’s singles final by three games or more. Two of those victories came against Dominic Thiem and the other was over Stan Wawrinka.
Djokovic has needed more of a fight in most of his Grand Slam final victories since 2018, as he was taken to five sets by Thiem at the 2020 Australian Open and by Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2019.
Even when he won his lone French Open title, Djokovic was far from clean in the first set. He fell in the opening frame to Andy Murray before taking three sets in a row.
Since Nadal has not faced much of a threat in his last three French Open finals, and in this year’s edition of the event, Djokovic needs to be perfect from the start to beat the Spaniard.
Djokovic is more than capable of beating Nadal straight up, but taking him down on clay is one of the most difficult tasks in tennis and in all of sports.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Statistics obtained from ATPTour.com.