The 2012 Roland Garros men’s singles final is scheduled to commence at 3pm local time in Paris, France. The contenders for the title are No.1 seed and 5-time Grand Slam singles champion Novak DJOKOVIC and 10-time Grand Slam champion No.2 seed Rafael NADAL. It is hard to remember the last time so much has been at stake in a Grand Slam final the record 7th singles title for Rafa and four consecutive Grand Slam singles titles plus a career Grand Slam for Nole.
One of the greatest rivalries in the history of tennis fires up again today as Djokovic and Nadal go head-to-head for the 33rd time. Nadal leads 18 wins to 14 and is brimming with confidence after breaking Djokovic’s run of seven straight wins against him by winning their two most recent matches in straight sets and on clay. Djokovic will have to have an infallible self-belief that he can win against Nadal at Roland Garros where Rafa has a 51 wins to only on loss record!
Winning the first set would certainly be a huge boost for Nole’s confidence and more importantly, keep Nadal from seemingly becoming superman if he wins the first set on terre battue – the red clay. Given their long list of amazing achievements here’s a brief comparison to set the scene for today’s match. On each line Djokovic’s details are listed first, followed by Nadal’s:
- The right-handed player versus the left-hander;
- The first time Roland Garros finalist versus King of Clay and court Philippe Chartrier;
- The best shot his double-handed backhand goes toe-to-toe with the best shot his prodigious topspin forehand;
- The current World No.1 defending his throne against the former World No.1;
- The 1.88m Serbian in his prime faces the 1.88m Spaniard at the tournament and on the surface that he owns;
- The free flowing strokes and variations versus the made champion, whose actually right handed; and
- The super lean machine locks horns with the hard working muscular bull;
- The retro conservative Sergio Tacchini gear and the tight fitted bright-coloured Nike kit; and
- The more aggressive player, aiming to enforce higher risk winning shots, looking to finish points, especially with flattened out ground strokes clashing with the amazingly consistent, defensive minded, minimum of risk player, hoping to really extend the points and match time, whilst intelligently extracting errors from his opponent.
Never before has the same two men met in the final of a Grand Slam four times in a row, so make sure you see how the two best performed players over the past two and a half years do battle in a rematch of the amazing 2012 Australian Open final.
The 26-year-old Nadal is playing in his 16th Grand Slam singles final whereas, the 25-year-old Djokovic is playing in his 8th Grand Slam singles final. Nadal’s record in these finals stands at 10-5. Two losses were dealt to him by Federer in back-to-back Wimbledon finals and the past three losses have been in a row and at the hands of Djokovic. Djokovic lost his first two finals to Federer at the US Open.
In Grand Slam singles finals Djokovic leads Nadal 3-0. In their other meetings at Roland Garros Nadal leads 3-0 winning in the 2006 quarter finals and in back-to-back semi finals in 2007 and 2008. Nadal has most likely the greatest clay court pedigree in the history of tennis. Nadal is playing for a historic seventh Roland Garros singles title in eight years to surpass Bjorn Borg’s record 6 titles (won over an 8-year period).
The deciding factor in determining who will win is who can demonstrate a greater mastery over the intense mental challenges both players will face. The player who can show this mastery today will emerge the victor. It does NOT matter that Nadal has won double the number of Grand Slam singles titles that Djokovic has. It does NOT matter how many times Nadal has beaten Djokovic on clay or how many times Nadal has won this title in the past! The mental component or psychology of performance is ALWAYS the No.1 most powerful and influential force on determining the outcome on the day.
What DOES matter is who can PERFORM all of the necessary tasks TODAY at a higher level than his opponent. Whoever is more successful at executing this TODAY will allow his higher levels of tennis performance to shine through. The necessity to achieve this performance level, which is determined by how high the bar is set by both players today, is the absolute and definitive test…this is especially true at the pivotal moments and crucial points.
Any predictions of who will win are in my opinion a monumental insult to the players and of course these two great champions. Predictions in tennis as well as betting on tennis are such negative and largely unreliable elements that impact on the game. People trying to sell you why their prediction will prove correct just illustrates how little they understand tennis. In a situation where there is a 1 in 2 chance their GUESS is correct, insanely they think guessing correctly demonstrates that they do know a lot about tennis.
One of the reasons that tennis is a great game is because it always has the potential of splitting the runner-up from the winner based on such tiny and small factors. These factors continually swing either way, in one persons favour or to the other persons favour at any time during every match. Indeed the scoring system in tennis is one of the biggest assets tennis has. The scoring system itself is a HUGE influential factor that ALWAYS sets the stage for change a large number of possible times and situations in every match where things can easily swing one way or the other.
What I LOVE to see when I watch a match is what transpires in all of these swinging moments, what players do in these situations, how do they act and respond, what level of mental skill over the ever-present mental challenges do they maintain and what performance level can they achieve under this pressure throughout the match.
If you have a new perspective now on today’s match, some ideas and questions about what I have raised to go over in your mind and more importantly an increased motivation to watch this match today, then I am happy that you have and will share my passion for tennis today. Now all I have to say is, I cannot wait to see…Djokovic and Nadal BRING IT ON!
photo credit: mbevis