Sunday, June 10, 2012

2012 FRENCH OPEN: Men's Final Preview

Here are my predictions for the men's final at Roland Garros for 2012. This year, I correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 1 of 2 women's semifinals. I also correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals this year. This year I also correctly predicted that Maria Sharapova would win the final, and last year I correctly predicted that Rafael Nadal would win the 2011 men's final.

 Novak Djokovic SRB (1) v. Rafael Nadal ESP (2). Here we go again! For the 33rd time in their career and the 10th ATP tour final in a row, Nadal and Djokovic are meeting. Nadal leads the overall head-to-head 18-14 but lost 7 consecutive finals to Djokovic before winning the last two finals the two played (on clay) in Monte Carlo and Rome. The two are meeting in their 4th consecutive major final, with Djokovic having won the first three (2011 Wimbledon, 2011 US Open and 2012 Australian Open) in the sequence, including the last incredible final which lasted nearly six(!) hours. Nadal has beaten Djokovic in a major final (2010 US Open), in  one of most important matches of his career, to win the career slam. Now, Djokovic needs to get through Nadal to reach his career slam.

In fact, Djokovic-Nadal XXXIII is the most important match the two have ever played, and may be the most important the two will ever play in their careers. If Djokovic wins, he not only becomes the 8th man to win the career slam but he will also have the "Nole Slam," having won 4 majors in a row. No man has been able to win 28 Grand Slam matches in a row for 43 years. Before Djokovic did it on Friday by beating him, Roger Federer was the last person to win 27 Grand Slam matches in a row, and he has done it twice in his career. Nadal has won 25 Grand Slam matches in a row, but on Sunday he is playing for a different place in history; to become the winningest player in French Open history with 7 major titles, more than even the great Bjorn Borg.

The match-up on clay is not a good one for Djokovic but he is probably the only active player who even if Nadal plays his best tennis could still beat the King of Clay if he plays his best also. In the major finals played in 2011, because they occurred while Djokovic was repeatedly beating Nadal on every surface, Nadal had a distinct mental disadvantage. Now, having basically had the title on his racquet in Melbourne  and having beaten Djokovic in two consecutive clay court finals in Monte Carlo and Rome and the manner in which he has demolished the rest of the field in Paris (not even facing a set point!) Nadal has erased that mental disadvantage and must relish the chance to turn the tables around where he is the strongest and Djokovic the weakest. After all, Nadal must take comfort that he has been able to beat the Greatest of all Time five times on Court Phillipe Chartrier, including in 4 finals (2011, 2008, 2007, 2006).

In reality, Djokovic also has more pressure on him because the match is more important to his career, but it is balanced by the consensus of expectations, which is that nobody can beat Nadal at Roland Garros right now. Nadal must know that if he doesn't win on Sunday, he will have at least 2-4 chances to win his 7th French Open in the future. But Djokovic has to realize that is very unlikely he will ever have another opportunity to hold all 4 major titles simultaneously.

That being said, Djokovic has a better serve, and is atleast as mentally tough as Nadal, but does he really have the fortitude (both mental and physical) to beat Nadal on his own turf? I'll believe it when I see it.

MadProfessah's pick: Nadal.

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