PARIS – Novak Djokovic has won 27 matches in a row at Grand Slam tournaments. If he can make that 28 by beating Rafael Nadal in today’s French Open final, Djokovic will earn a fourth consecutive major title, something no man has accomplished since 1969.
Tough to imagine someone so close to such a historic achievement being an underdog, yet that’s exactly the case for Djokovic.
Even the 25-year-old Serb says so.
“You can say that he’s a favorite, definitely,” Djokovic conceded.
Really? Even though Djokovic beat Nadal in each of the past three Grand Slam finals?
Well, yes. Because as good as Djokovic is on all surfaces and in all settings at the moment, no one has been as good as Nadal is on the red clay of Roland Garros. Set aside that Nadal owns 10 Grand Slam titles overall, twice as many as Djokovic, and simply consider the 26-year-old Spaniard’s superb French Open bona fides.
While Djokovic hopes to complete a “Novak Slam” – only two other men in the century-plus annals of tennis have been the reigning champion at all four Grand Slam tournaments simultaneously – Nadal seeks his record seventh trophy at the French Open. Only Nadal and Bjorn Borg have won the title six times.
All told, Nadal is 51-1 at his favorite tournament, including 3-0 against Djokovic, who’s never before reached the final in Paris.
“He has lost, what, two matches in his career here?” Djokovic asked during a news conference after eliminating 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the semifinals.
As reporters began to correct Djokovic’s count, he continued: “One? That says enough, I mean, about his quality on this court. … I haven’t won a set against him in this court. All the facts are on his side.”
Nadal’s only loss came against Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009. He has won every set he’s played over the past two weeks, losing a total of only 35 games through six matches.