Monday, May 21, 2012

Djokovic-Nadal XXXII: Rome 2012 Final on Monday

Due to the rain which postponed and dramatically impacted the gripping women's final between Maria Sharapova and Li Na at the BNL Internazionale d'Italia, the men's final between World #1 Novak Djokovic and World #3 Rafael Nadal will be held at noon local time (3am PDT / 6am EDT). I'm not sure I'll watch the final live, since my time in the Eternal City is coming to a close, and today is my birthday!

This is the 32nd career match between the two players who have won the last 8 Grand Slam titles between them (5 for Djokovic and 3 for Nadal with the Spaniard losing to the Serbian in 3 of those finals and beating him in one).

The two are playing in their 8th consecutive final since March 2011, with Djokovic winning 6 of those matches in a row but Nadal won their last meeting, on clay, in the Monte Carlo final earlier a month ago. This will be their 4th clay court final, Nadal's best surface and Djokovic's worst.

In the semifinals, Djokovic played an excellent match against Roger Federer, winning 6-2 7-6(4) to beat the person who had stopped his astonishing winning streak from last year in the semifinals of the French Open. It was only Federer's 4th match loss since the 2011 US Open semifinal loss to Djokovic. Nadal outlasted his countryman World #5 David Ferrer in his semifinal 7-6(6) 6-0 despite being down a break 1-3 in the first set. Both players are playing well and should be rested after not playing at all on Sunday. I didn't see any of them play during my visit to the tournament on Friday for the quarterfinals.

The 2012 French Open starts in under a week (Sunday May 27th) and is looming large over this 32nd meeting between the two leading contenders for the title. For Djokovic, if he wins it he will become the first male player in several decades to win 4 consecutive major titles (the Nole slam). If Nadal wins it, it will be his record 7th French Open title and 11th major title overall.

The Rome final should be an excellent proxy fight. I believe Nadal really wants it, but I think, over 3 sets Djokovic can impose his will and blunt Nadal's mastery of the surface over a finitely defined time (3 tie-break sets).


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