Fan favorites clung onto Spanish professional tennis player Rafeal Nadal at the French Open. He is currently ranked No. 2 in the world’s men’s singles tennis by the Association of Tennis Professionals. He dueled against Novak Djokovic, who is currently ranked No. 1, in men’s singles tennis by the ATP. Nadal leads 29-26 in their meetings, but trails 6-1 at the French Open. Djokovic won the last French Open in 2015 and has claimed their last three grand slam duels overall. Which included winning against Nadal in the Australian Open final last year in two hours.
These previous losses caused Nadal to visually prepare for the match. He was spotted watching the match between Schwartzman and Tsitsipas, where Schwartzman delivered a rare clay defeat against his pal, Tsitsipas. Schwartzman appeared in his first grand slam semifinal and Tsitsipas his second, having been routed by Nadal in Melbourne in 2019. In Melbourne, Nadal beat Czech Republic’s former Wimbledon finalist, Tomas Berdych, 6-0, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4). Nadal’s only other triumph was at Melbourne Park 10 years earlier in 2009.
Nadal studied their match and spent time working on his clay-court game. Nadal was expected to feel vulnerable joining the French Open especially since the pandemic forced him to take a six-month layoff this year. On the account of the coronavirus pandemic, players walked onto the court wearing masks. It’s also the reason for the 15-day event that was shifted from May to September while having crowds limited to 1,000 per day. This match between these “two titans of their sport” was much anticipated. It was the first indoor French Open men’s final, played under the Court Philippe Chatrier’s new retractable roof.
At age 34, Nadal is the oldest French Open champion since 1972, with 15 years spanning between his first and most recent Grand Slam titles. He previously had a streak of four French Open Championships from 2005 to 2008, then another five in a row from 2010 to 2014. These titles fall alongside his four trophies at the US Open, two at Wimbledon and one at the Australian Open.
Nadal and Djokovic have the most meetings between any pair of men in the professional era, facing off with 56 installments. It’s also their ninth in a Grand Slam final, equaling Nadal vs. Federer for the most.
In the previous 18 matchups against Nadal, Djokovic had won 14. This led to Nadal’s lead 29-26 overall, including a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win at the 2019 Australian Open final. If Djokovic had won, the trio’s standings would have read 20-19-18.
Roger Federer, a professional Swiss tennis player who is ranked world No. 4 in men’s singles tennis by the Association of Tennis Professionals, reacted to Nadal’s win on Twitter, congratulating his “greatest rival.”
“I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion,” Federer said in his post. “As my greatest rival over many years, I believe we have pushed each other to become better players. Therefore, it is a true honor for me to congratulate him on his 20th Grand Slam victory…”
NBC commentators were baffled by Djokovic. They openly wondered if Djokovic was hiding an injury because they simply couldn’t believe what they were seeing, stating there was a lack of energy and precision that he didn’t bring to the court. Nadal on the other hand grew more dominant throughout the whole match. Djokovic tried to put his best foot forward with his fondness for drop shots but Nadal was able to easily keep up.
“I am not so pleased with the way I played. but I was definitely [outplayed] by a better player,” said Djokovic, according to ESPN.
Out of Djokovic’s first six service games, Nadal took five and broke seven in all. He ended up saving four break points for himself out of the five he faced. No more than two hours in, Djokovic made it three-all in the third set, by employing a backhand to get his initial break. This was the fourth set that Djokovic lost 6-0 in his 341 career Grand Slam matches. Nadal was simply too good, as usual, whenever he competed in the French Openings.