Rafa Roundup: Paris is ready for the blockbuster clash. Are you? 

(Photo by Mine Kasapoglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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Nadal said yesterday that it could be his last match at Roland Garros…
That’s the reality. We never know what will happen in one year. It’s clear that he’s playing a match where there’s a risk of losing. I think he is saying that more in that sense, but I’m confident and I hope it’s not his last match in Paris.

The match will be played at night. How does that affect him?
The conditions are much livelier during the day, the ball bounces higher and Rafa’s game is more dangerous. Two years ago they played under the roof, it was cold and at night. It was a close atmosphere and he played an amazing game. The preference was to play in the day, but it doesn’t matter; it’ll be at night and we’ll try and win.

Nadal has a record 22 career wins over No. 1s. It’s the most in either ATP or WTA rankings history, and potentially a good omen for the Spaniard as he takes on the No. 1-ranked Djokovic. Boris Becker, Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams have the next-most career wins over No. 1s with 19, 18 and 17, respectively.

The average ranking of Nadal’s opponents this Roland-Garros is 64.75 through four rounds, with world No.139 Corentin Moutet being the lowest-ranked rival he has faced so far. The average ranking of Djokovic’s opponents is 87, with world No.195 Aljaz Bedene being his lowest-ranked victim so far.

Tuesday will witness the first time two men with 20 or more Grand Slams won by each will square off in a match.

Asked about the significance of the match, former British No. 1 Henman said on Eurosport: “There was [Roger] Federer v Djokovic at Wimbledon in 2019 but the consequences of this, with Rafa on 21 Slams and Djokovic on 20, trying to draw level, I think in the men’s game it’s the most important match in the last 10 years.”

“I think we are going to see a fast match in terms of ball striking and aggressiveness,” said Wilander. “The crowd are going to favour Rafa because he’s the only one here who is always the favourite and they still root for him; they usually root for the underdog. I think if that happens Novak is so good at turning that into a positive and using that adversity to fire himself up.”

“Unfortunately, every year they play one round earlier here,” said Goran Ivanisevic, Djokovic’s coach. “Two years ago it was the final. Last year it was the semis and now the quarters, but it’s probably the best quarterfinal ever in the history of the French Open.”

After facing off 58 times (and in a few more exhibition matches), there can be no secrets on court. Nadal knows that breaking down the elastic Djokovic from the baseline is one of the toughest asks in tennis. Djokovic knows that regaining control of a rally once Nadal has begun to dictate its terms with his whipping forehand is every bit as daunting.

“Watch for Rafa’s forehand down the line,” Cahill said. “He will try and stretch Novak to that side as his defense on the backhand is crazy good.”

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10 comments

  1. Rafael Nadal-the hype, the noise will be oblivious to you on La terre battue- you are there because you want this. You are like Jagger in concert when the first notes of “Gimme Shelter” begin-time is
    suspended as though you are there for the first time. It is magical and mesmerizing. Fight, Rafa,
    because you are Roland Garros👏👍🤛💪🎾🍀❤️🔥

    • Jim Courier says ND is the clear favorite… I will agree with him on the fact that ND has looked stronger & has had an easier draw than Rafa. I never will give up on Rafa & win or lose Rafa is forever the King of Roland Garros. ❤️🙏 Rafa !

  2. VAMOS,RAFA! IT IS GOOD TIME TO BEAT DJOKOVIC!

    DJOKOVIC HAS NOT YET MET A TRUE RIVAL IN THIS TOURNAMENT!

    GO FOR ANOTHER GREAT VICTORY, AND FOR THE TROPHY!

    VAAAAAAAMOS,RAFA!

  3. Rafa ALWAYS has something more to give. Even if he loses he fights like the bull he is. I pray this will not be his last match in Paris – I believe he WILL win for no other reason than his heart is bigger than any other player – he WANTS IT MORE! Go get that (D)joker!!! Vamos Rafa!

  4. Rafa needs to start strong like last year”s 1st set and ride the momentum . Confidence is everything and we need for Rafa to lose some of his over confidence . Vamos and please win this match for all the right reasons . Cement the legacy of Rafa and Roland Garros !

  5. Yes, Carlos M, I am bullish about Rafa – despite the foot, despite the evening match and despite the opponent who is a great returner but that’s all he is, a returner.

    Agassi was a great returner too, but Pete created shots to finish off the returns; Lleyton was another returner, waiting for opponents to miss; Djokovic upped the anté & raised the returning onto another level but Djokovic has recently been upstaged by Daniil to earn the ‘returning crown’ – hence some tennis pundits say ‘Daniil’s game is a foil to that of Djokovic’s.

    While our Rafa from one match to the other, doesn’t have a plan making him the most proactive tennis player to-date. Present him with a tennis quandary, you can almost see the Rafa brain ticking away, devising a response at crucial points in the match.

    Brilliant spontaneity on the tennis court by our Rafa is what I am banking on the day, -er the evening of their clash.

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