By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic, it can’t get bigger than this for the French Open finals scheduled for Sunday. One of the most storied sporting rivalries between the top seed, Djokovic and No.2 seed and defending champion Nadal will add another chapter on Sunday evening as they locks horns for the Roland-Garros title for the third time.
Djokovic and Nadal have squared off at every Grand Slam event and at Sunday’s conclusion, either the Serb will have closed the gap on Nadal’s tally to one major title and two shy of Roger Federer, or the 12-time champion will draw level with Federer’s record 20.
Here’s a look at this most intriguing of match-ups.
Nadal vs Djokovic LIVE Head-to-head RECORDS
Fifty-five prior encounters, 29 of those to Djokovic, 26 to Nadal – the most tour-level match-ups in the Open Era. It is a catalogue of clashes on every surface, from their first at Roland-Garros 2006, when Djokovic retired with a back injury, to the final of this year’s ATP Cup in Sydney, which he won before capturing an eighth Australian Open title.
This will be their 16th meeting at a major – 9-6 in Nadal’s favour – and their ninth in a Grand Slam final, which they stand tied at 4-4. It will be their third Roland-Garros final, with the Spaniard having won both previous ones. Nadal has claimed six of their seven matches in Paris; the Serb being one of only two men to have beaten the King of Clay at his most successful Slam.
Of their 25 meetings on the red dirt, Nadal boasts a 17-7 record, including their past three. However, Djokovic has claimed 14 of their past 18 showdowns overall.
Nadal vs Djokovic LIVE : Champions speak before the finals –
Djokovic on facing Nadal:
“He won this tournament so many times that I don’t think any player has won that many times any tournament. He’s lost twice in his entire career on this court… Yeah, I mean, look, regardless of the conditions, he’s still there, he’s Rafa, he’s in the finals and we’re playing on clay. Best-of-five playing him in the finals at Roland-Garros, I know that feeling. I did lose to him on this court most of the matches that we played, but I also won one match in 2015 in straight sets in quarters.”
Nadal on facing Djokovic:
“The only thing I know is to play against Novak, I need to play my best. Without playing my best tennis, situation is very difficult. I know that it is a court that I have been playing well for such a long time, so that helps. But at the same time he has an amazing record here, too, being in the final rounds almost every single time. It is one of the toughest opponents possible.”