WILL EVANS’ daily preview serves up French Open tips for a colossal quarter-final between tennis icons Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
06:45 (AEST), Wed 1st Jun @ Stade de Roland Garros, Paris
History: Played 58: Djokovic 30 V Nadal 28
Last meeting: French Open, 2021 (SF): 3-6 6-3 7-6 6-2
Final Thoughts: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have won 15 of the last 17 French Opens between them – including the last six straight. But the legends will face off in the Roland Garros quarter-finals this time around.
Djokovic defeat the ‘King of Clay’ in the semi-finals last year – avenging his defeat in the 2020 final with just his second win in nine French Open encounters with Nadal. The 3-6 6-3 7-6 6-2 result also ended Djokovic’s five-match losing streak against Nadal on clay.
On the back of winning the Italian Open, the world No.1 has been virtually flawless in Paris so far. Djokovic is yet to drop a set in eliminating Yoshihito Nishioka, Alex Molcan, Aljaz Bedene and 15th seed Diego Schwartzman. He has won each match by a games margin of eight or more and crushed the well-credentialled Schwartzman 6-1 6-3 6-3. The 34-year-old has lost just three games on serve.
Fifth seed Nadal, the fifth seed and current Australian Open champ, breezed past Jordan Thompson, Corentin Moutet and Botic van de Zandschulp in straight sets to put an injury-hampered French Open build-up behind him.
But the 13-time Roland Garros champ was taken to five sets by ninth seed Felix Auger Aliassime. Rafa dug deep, however, and took out the decider 6-3 – illustrating his peerless determination and fighting spirit against a young, in-form opponent with a rocket serve.
Nadal has expressed his preference for playing on clay during the day. The scheduling of this barnburner late in the night session hands a bit of an edge to Djokovic. Moreover, Novak’s victory on these courts last year and his blistering performances over the past week render him a deserving $1.43 favourite.
Nadal will have his patches of dominance and can never be counted out, but I’m predicting Djokovic – presumably in better shape injury-wise – to weather the storm and finish off the clay master.