If anybody can cease Rafael Nadal from successful his record-extending thirteenth Roland Garros title—which might make him 26-0 in semifinals and finals on the terre battue—and his one centesimal match total on the clay-court main, it’s Novak Djokovic. The pandemic could have price tennis followers Indian Wells, Miami, Wimbledon and lots of different glorious tournaments, however Djokovic-Nadal LVI, on this setting, is not less than some degree of payback.
No person has overwhelmed Djokovic extra instances than Nadal, and vice-versa. The Serb leads their head-to-head file 29-26, and is only one of two gamers to get the higher of Nadal at Roland Garros. Simply watching the highlights of their storied rivalry is an all-day exercise. We are able to argue endlessly about tennis’ greatest-ever rivalries, but when your metric relies on the variety of factors that drop your jaw, or the quantity of instances you query whether or not the athletes are literally human or not, that is the match-up for you.
Within the phrases of ATP commentator Robbie Koenig, Djokovic and Nadal often ship “tennis nearer the gods.”
“TENNIS NEARER THE GODS” ????
Iconic rally deserves iconic commentary… pic.twitter.com/e3HOEtTiAs
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) January 26, 2019
There are numerous causes this match-up is not like every other. For one, the bodily health and psychological toughness on show are unequaled. However on the finish of the day, the first sample— Nadal’s forehand to Djokovic’s backhand—pits two of the very best pictures in tennis historical past towards each other almost each level. On clay, neither participant earns a surplus of free factors on serve, however they continue to be the 2 finest returners on the planet. Nearly each single level should be earned the arduous method.
“The one factor I do know is to play towards Novak, I must play my finest,” Nadal advised press. “With out taking part in my finest tennis, the scenario could be very tough. I do know that may be a courtroom that I’ve been taking part in nicely for such a very long time, in order that helps. However on the identical time he has a tremendous file right here, too, being within the remaining rounds nearly each single time.”
Nadal’s operating crosscourt forehand is without doubt one of the sport’s final cheat codes. In the event you assault his forehand, it’s necessary to drive an error or hit a clear winner, like Djokovic does under with an inside-out forehand:
In the event you fail to hit a clear winner, not solely does the purpose begin over, it begins with the world’s heaviest forehand falling almost 20 ft from the sky:
Nadal’s skill to immediately transition from protection to offense is nearly unfair—however so is Djokovic’s open-stance sliding backhand:
Djokovic has overwhelmed Nadal on clay seven instances. He has all of the instruments to do it an eighth time, however any evaluation of their subsequent battle should embrace this reminder: Nadal is 99-2 at Roland Garros. The Spaniard on clay is like Michael Phelps in water and Wayne Gretzky on ice.
In the event you google “most dominant athletes of all time,” an inventory pops up that features Phelps, Kelly Slater, Floyd Mayweather, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Martina Navratilova. Who’s on the prime of the checklist? Nadal at Roland Garros. He’s an ideal 12-0 in French Open finals, and will enhance to 13-0 on Sunday.
The Choose: Rafael Nadal
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