Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will meet for a third time in the final of the French Open on Sunday.
The meeting will be the 56th between these two legends of the sport, and it will be their eighth on the clay courts of Paris.
World number one Djokovic has not lost a match all year, barring his disqualification at the US Open last month after accidentally hitting a line judge with the ball after a point was finished. This impressive form is still however not enough to make him favourite against twelve time champion Nadal.
The man from Mallorca has only ever lost two matches in 16 appearances at Roland Garros, with the first coming in 2009 against 23rd seed Robin Soderling. Previous to this defeat Rafa had won the title on his first four entries.
Djokovic boasts the second and most recent victory over Nadal at the slam, with this coming in 2015 when he defeated a returning Rafael Nadal 7-5 6-3 6-1 in the quarter final.
After this momentous win, Djokovic had looked destined to win his first ever Roland Garros crown. However one Stan Wawrinka ruined the Serbian party by defeating Djokovic in the final across four sets.
The man from Belgrade has however one French title to his name, when he was potentially benefitted by the absence of Nadal in 2016 after he pulled out ahead of his third round tie injured. This year Djokovic took his maiden crown, avoiding his fate of 2015 and beating Andy Murray in four sets.
Though Djokovic’s convincing victory over Nadal in 2015 remains their latest meeting in Paris, the Spanish second seed does boast a 6-1 lead over Djokovic at Roland Garros including final victories in 2012 and 2014, both in four sets.
2020 has been like no other year for the French Open, with it being played in October due to the Covid-19 postponement of the tournament. But despite the changing environment in Paris, the dominance of these two gladiators has remained very much the same.
Reigning champion of the last three years, Nadal is yet to lose a set en route to Sunday’s final. In his quarter final match the Spaniard came up against impressive 19 year old Jannik Sinner who had stunned US Open runner up Alexander Zverev over four sets in the fourth round.
The young Italian Sinner pushed Nadal in the opening two sets but the 19 time Grand Slam champion, who is chasing Federer’s record of 20 titles, was too good for the youngster and came through 7-6 6-4 6-1.
Nadal’s semi final match saw him face 12th seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina. The 5ft 7′ 28 year old was playing in his first ever Slam semi after he beat the runner up of the last two years Dominic Thiem across five sets in the quarter.
It was a similar story for Schwartzman as it was for Sinner though, with the challenger pushing Nadal across the match but having nothing to show for it. Nadal won 6-3 6-3 7-6.
Novak Djokovic has had a slightly tougher time getting through to the grand final on Sunday.
The Serb cruised through his opening four matches, dropping an average of just six games in each. But quarter final opponent 17th seed Pablo Carreno-Busta, the beneficiary of Djokovic’s Flushing Meadows’ disqualification, proved a tougher challenge for the 2016 champion.
The world number one was troubled by a shoulder injury early on, and had to battle back from losing the first set 6-4 to win the match in four sets despite the injury concerns. He won 4-6 6-2 6-3 6-4.
Djokovic’s semi final saw his first Grand Slam match up with exciting 22 year old Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Looking now free of injury Djokovic took the first two sets with ease, however the man from Greece was not going down without a fight.
Two nail bitingly close sets saw Tsitsipas draw level and force the 33 year old to a deciding set.
The fifth was one way traffic though, and Djokovic rather steamrolled over the fifth seed and won the match 6-3 6-2 5-7 4-6 6-1, preventing Tsitsipas from making his first ever Grand Slam final.
Djokovic leads the overall head to head 29-26 between the world’s best two, but he has not bettered Nadal on a clay court since 2016 when he defeated him in Rome.
Nadal on the other hand has lost three more times than Djokovic in 2020, despite having played 13 matches fewer than the Serbian.
Nadal will be desperate to level Federer’s all time Slam record, and win his first Slam title since this competition last year. Yet Djokovic also will want to improve his place in the all time slam race and become within one title of Rafa.
The players are expected out on court at 14:00 on Sunday.