Djokovic vs Nadal French Open tennis preview, head-to-head and predictions

hannahwilks in French Open 10 Oct 2020
Nadal boasts a dominant record against his second-round opponent (©Sebastien Muylaert/MAXPPP)

Will Novak Djokovic become the first man to beat Rafael Nadal in a French Open final?

Djokovic vs Nadal is live from Roland Garros on Sunday 11 October, 3pm local/2pm BST

History is always on the line when Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic face each other, but perhaps never more so than Sunday’s French Open final. If Nadal wins, he will increase his haul of Roland Garros titles to 13 and tie Roger Federer’s all-time Grand Slam record of 20 titles. If Djokovic wins, he will be the first man to beat Nadal at the French Open twice, the only man to beat him in a Roland Garros final and the first man in Open Era history to win each Grand Slam at least twice, as well as narrowing the gap on Nadal and Federer in the all-time Grand Slam race.

French Open 2020: Find out tournament information for Roland Garros 2020 and how to stream French Open matches live

Nadal has yet to drop a set at this year’s French Open, and his supremacy on the courts of Roland Garros knows no equal – but in recent years, Djokovic has continued to turn the tide of their rivalry in his favour, winning seven of their last ten matches and leading the head-to-head 29-26.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

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Djokovic vs Nadal: Head-to-head

Novak Djokovic leads the head-to-head with Rafael Nadal 29-26. On clay, however, Nadal has the advantage, leading 17-7. It’s been four years since Djokovic has beaten Nadal on clay.

At Grand Slams, Nadal leads the head-to-head 9-6, but Djokovic has won the last three. In Grand Slam finals, it’s 4-4.

Nadal won the first six matches they played against each other at Roland Garros but Djokovic won their last encounter in straight sets in the 2015 quarterfinals.

Djokovic vs Nadal: Preview

These two have played each other 55 times, so in one sense there will be no surprises when the two meet in Sunday’s French Open final – and yet, the outcome remains uncertain.

Djokovic took the ascendancy in the rivalry in the past decade, and has won 10 of the 13 matches they have played over the past five years, including his straight-sets victory over Nadal in the French Open quarterfinals in 2015. But they have only played on clay three times in the past three years. Each time, Nadal has been the winner.

The past fortnight has demonstrated once again just why Nadal is on the brink of winning his 13th French Open title. Unfavourable conditions, new balls he doesn’t like, an extreme lack of recent competitive matches – none of it has stopped him from reaching the final without dropping a single set. Against Diego Schwartzman in the semifinals, he won a 64-minute first set and survived a late charge from the Argentine. Perhaps most ominously, he is showing no signs of physical frailty or wear-and-tear.

Novak Djokovic (Photo by laurent Zabulon/ABACAPRESS.COM)

Djokovic palpably struggled with a left neck/shoulder/arm issue against Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarterfinals, but there was no tape on his neck nor any sign of being hindered when he faced Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinals. The last thing he needed was a long match, though, and that’s what he got, finding himself taken to a fifth set despite holding match point in the third against a seemingly totally outplayed Tsitsipas. The Greek’s surge back to level the match had much more to do with him than it did with a drop in Djokovic’s level, but when Nadal was faced with a similar surge from Schwartzman, he contained it and got out of there in straight sets. Djokovic didn’t, or couldn’t, and it could be the difference in Sunday’s final – not just the fact that Nadal expended less energy, but that the Spanish player was able to find that extra gear when needed.

The trend of the rivalry in recent years has been in Djokovic’s direction, but they’ve met so infrequently in recent years – no more than twice a year for the past three years – and in such different conditions that it’s difficult to read too much into it. I thought coming into this tournament that Djokovic would win it. I’ve changed my mind.

Djokovic vs Nadal: Prediction

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