Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal square off in a record fourth successive Grand Slam final today, with the French Open title and a place in tennis folklore at stake.
A win for world No. 1 Djokovic, playing in his first Roland Garros final, will make him only the third man in history — and first in 43 years — to hold all four majors at the same time.
Victory for world No. 2 Nadal will mean becoming the first man to win seven French Opens, breaking a tie for six he currently holds with Swedish legend Bjorn Borg.
Nadal, with a staggering Roland Garros career record of 51 wins and just one defeat, is the overwhelming favorite, having reached his seventh final for the loss of just 35 games in six rounds.
He has not dropped a set and has lost serve just once.
On Friday he pulverized his friend and clay specialist David Ferrer 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 to hurtle into a record seventh French Open final.
Furthermore, Nadal came into Paris having secured clay-court titles in Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Rome, beating Djokovic in the finals of the last two in straight sets.
However, Djokovic has won all of the last three Grand Slam title matches they have played — at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, and this year’s epic Australian Open which, at 5 hours, 53 minutes, was the longest ever men’s final.
“This is a different surface, different circumstances,” said the top seed, who reached the final with a straight sets semi-final win over Roger Federer, having saved four match points in his quarter-final win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
“He always plays his best at Roland Garros, and so I expect him to do that as well on Sunday. I know that I have to be playing consistently well on a very high level in order to win best of five against Nadal,” he said.
The Serb, looking to emulate Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) by possessing all the majors, says he has learned from losing his first nine clay court meetings with Nadal.
Nadal, looking to capture an 11th major, believes his wins over Djokovic in Monte Carlo and Rome could be beneficial.
“I won in Rome and Monte Carlo, because my tennis was better against Djokovic. Beating him gave me more confidence,” Nadal said.
However, he is keen to play down any notions that he is a clay-court superman.
“I work daily; I practice daily. Each time you’re on the court, you know that you might lose. So I have to keep a low profile about it; we have to be humble,” he said.
“I’ll have to continue and practice, and work and keep my focus until Sunday. So far I got off to a really good start. I’m really satisfied with what’s happened. I’m really happy about the things that life has given me so far,” Nadal added.