Novak Djokovic could possibly be forgiven for wildly celebrating one of the vital well-known wins of his profession over ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal however historical past ought to function a warning that he shouldn’t take his eye off the ball.
Djokovic, the world No. 1 from Serbia, has painful recollections of knocking Nadal – who has now solely misplaced 3 times at Roland Garros, twice to Djokovic – out of the event solely to go on to lose the ultimate to Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka.
One other man with a one-handed backhand awaits him on Sunday, the Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
An sudden – and easily good – win over Nadal has put Djokovic in an unbelievable place to take pleasure in probably the most historic season of his profession.
Ought to he declare this title, he would turn out to be the primary man within the Open Period to have gained each main occasion twice and it’ll give him the chance to equal Nadal and Roger Federer’s 20-Slam males’s file at Wimbledon.
It’s not inconceivable now that Djokovic, who has gained six of the final 10 majors, might win a Calendar Slam – a feat solely Don Budge and Rod Laver have achieved.
Most Grand Slam titles (ATP)
20 – Federer
20 – Nadal
18 – Djokovic
14 – Sampras
Given it’s an Olympic 12 months, he might even turn out to be the second participant, man or lady, in historical past to finish a Calendar Golden Slam – the place all main titles and the Olympics are gained in the identical 12 months – after German legend Steffi Graf.
This may increasingly really feel untimely however argubaly the largest impediment has already been eliminated. Since 2005, Nadal has gained 13 titles on the French Open, shedding simply three matches in a 16-year spell. Djokovic has twice gained the opposite three majors in the identical 12 months.
His subsequent opponent is a first-time Grand Slam finalist, and the primary participant from Greece to attain such a feat, however not at all a pushover.
Tsitsipas, 22, is tipped to be one of many dominant forces within the recreation as soon as the ‘Massive Three’ of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic dangle up their racquets however he has an air of impatience about him already.
He spoke earlier this 12 months of his season objective to beat Nadal on the French Open however Djokovic has kindly taken care of that for him. As daunting a prospect because the Serb is on any floor, he just isn’t a person who has gained 13 French Open finals.
Tsitsipas, who defeated Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev, two of the largest abilities in his technology, in earlier rounds leads the Race to Turin and has turn out to be the dominant pressure exterior of the Slams.
Now, after ending a run of three straight defeats in main semi-finals, he will get his first shot on the greatest prize.
His head-to-head with Djokovic doesn’t precisely make for comforting studying.
Tsitsipas and Djokovic routes to French Open remaining
R1: 7-6 6-Three 6-1 Chardy
R2: 6-Three 6-Four 6-Three Martinez
R3: 5-7 6-Three 7-6 6-1 Isner
R4: 6-Three 6-2 7-5 Carreno Busta
QF: 6-Three 7-6 7-5 Medvedev
SF: 6-Three 6-Three 4-6 4-6 6-Three Zverev
R1: 6-2 6-Four 6-2 Sandgren
R2: 6-Three 6-2 6-Four Cuevas
R3: 6-1 6-Four 6-1 Berankis
R4: 6-7 6-7 6-1 6-Zero 4-Zero RET Musetti
QF: 6-Three 6-2 6-7 7-5 Berrettini
SF: 3-6 6-Three 7-6 6-2 Nadal
After getting off to a formidable begin of their rivalry, successful two of the primary three conferences, he has since been overwhelmed in every of the final 4 ties.
He can take encouragement from the newest losses, five-set and three-set defeats in Paris and Rome respectively, however Djokovic has made no secret of the actual fact he thinks he has the youthful technology pegged relating to Grand Slam occasions.
After preventing again from two units down within the fourth spherical to beat Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti, Djokovic stated: ‘I prefer to play younger guys in best-of-five, as a result of I really feel even when they’re main a set or two units to like because it was the case in the present day, I nonetheless like my possibilities, as a result of I really feel like I’m bodily match and I understand how to put on my opponent down.
‘I’ve gained a lot of the five-setters I’ve performed on this event and in my profession, so I believe that have helps.’
Tsitsipas will hope to assert the final of his ‘Massive Three’ scalps at Grand Slams, having overwhelmed each Federer, in 2019, and Nadal, earlier this 12 months, on the Australian Open.
He was emotionally overwhelmed after his five-sets win over Zverev within the semi-finals, tearing up as he recognised how important the win was at dwelling as he grew to become the primary participant from Greece to succeed in a Slam remaining.
However he must regroup and concentrate on what’s forward if he’s to have any likelihood of upsetting the highest seed.
‘I’m actually pleased with myself,’ stated Tsitsipas. ‘I believe I’ve proven good self-discipline thus far. I’ve been progressive.
‘There may be the ultimate, which is thrilling. I’m wanting ahead on leaving my total physique on the court docket.’
He’ll little question have been happy to see Djokovic and Nadal take chunks out of one another for greater than 4 hours on Friday evening, though Djokovic – who famously beat Nadal within the longest main remaining in historical past simply two days after beating Andy Murray in a near-five-hour epic on the Australian Open in 2012 – is assured he is aware of how deal with this example.
‘It’s not the primary time that I play an epic semi-final in a Grand Slam after which I’ve to return again in lower than 48 hours and play finals,’ he stated. ‘My recuperate talents are fairly good, I need to say, all through my profession.
‘I do know what I have to do. Clearly Tsitsipas, first time within the finals of a Grand Slam, if I’m not mistaken. For him it’s an incredible achievement, however I’m certain he doesn’t wish to cease there.
‘We performed an epic five-setter final 12 months within the semis right here. Yeah, I do know it’s going to be one other powerful one. I’m hoping I can recharge my batteries as a lot as I can as a result of I’m going to wish some energy and vitality for that one.’
Certainly he will. Tsitsipas just isn’t solely an beautiful technician, with an unlimited array of weapons at his disposal, however he can be a terrific bodily specimen who can go toe-to-toe with Djokovic.
He’s, undoubtedly, able to taking this match out of Djokovic’s palms if he performs to one of the best of his capability and maintains a excessive degree. Nonetheless, one senses this match might be all about expertise.
Djokovic is aware of when to strike. He is aware of when to climate a storm. He is aware of the right way to deal with the feelings of a giant event.
This can be a man with historical past in his sights, it might be a significant shock to see him fail to grab it on Sunday. Prediction: Djokovic in 4.