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By Ryan Moran
Sub-edited by Rhys Jones
Novak Djokovic is eyeing his second Roland Garros title against 12-time winner Rafael Nadal and recognises the tournament’s later completion alters the playing field.
After beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in his semi-final on Friday, the Serb acknowledged that the tournament being played in September and October rather than May and June improved his chances of beating Rafael Nadal on a surface the Spaniard excels on.
“I think that could be a better chance for me, obviously the ball not bouncing as high over the shoulder as he likes it usually. Regardless of the conditions, he’s still there, he’s Rafa, he’s in the finals and we’re playing on clay,” said the number one seed.
This is the pair’s eighth meeting at the French Open and Djokovic is only one of two men to beat Nadal in a tournament he has won 12 times in 14 attempts. That victory came in straight sets in 2015.
After beating Diego Schwartzman, Nadal was asked whether previous meetings between him and Djokovic would have any bearing on this match. Nadal replied, “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,” said the Spaniard.
This was something his opponent was also quick to acknowledge, “He’s definitely my greatest rival and I think our head-to-head is the biggest head-to-head ever in the history of the sport. I’m really looking forward to a great battle with Rafa,” Djokovic said.
Head-to-head Djokovic edges Nadal 29-26 but there’s more at stake on Sunday than just a grand slam. The Spaniard would go level with Roger Federer on 20 titles while the Serb would move to 18 and go one behind his opponent who is currently on 19.
The final is due to start at 15:00 on Sunday afternoon for an intriguing battle between two modern greats.