A Nadal – Djokovic final: There are only two left, and it could only be them

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It was not necessarily written, but it will be accomplished. Rafael Nadal, the man with twelve titles at Roland Garros, the most dominant player in the history of clay, will find in the final Novak Djokovic, the most dominant player for ten years. The best player in the world and the best player in the world, to use a formula once used to predefine the Parisian finals between Nadal and Federer. This “Djokodal”, 56th of the name, sounded obvious. Or not.

Each of the two monsters dragged their share of uncertainties with them. Nadal, first and foremost. Absent from the American tour, he only played the only Masters 1000 in Rome as a preparation. Beaten in the quarter-finals by Diego Schwartzman, he therefore only had two matches in his legs in seven months by appearing in Paris. Then there were these conditions. The gray, the cold, these new balls … Everything had to upset him, limit the range of his lift and the overall impact of his game.

Rafael Nadal, Roland-Garros 2020

Credit: Getty Images

Two weeks, six matches and an immaculate record later, Nadal is back in his place in the final. He hasn’t lost a set. We will be told that he had a “quiet” painting, that it is (a little) less striking. All of this is not entirely false without being entirely true, but, concerning the second point, that one can nitpick about the level of a player who reaches the final without conceding a round says a lot about the our perception of him.

In his own way, like Roger Federer of old, Nadal has created a monster, limited to the limits of the Porte d’Auteuil, certainly, but this monster is perhaps the most frightening of all. He has exploded the limits of normality so much and trivialized the unreal so much that one comes to quibble over a fortnight like his.

To be completely fair, it is true that this Nadal remains partially difficult to pin down. It is only Sunday, against Novak Djokovic, that we will know what he really had in the stomach and in the arm.

The Serb will therefore also be at the rendezvous. The nature of the questions surrounding him were of a different nature. The question, rather: how was he going to digest his disqualification, last month, at the US Open? An event so exceptional, so unpredictable, that it was impossible to anticipate to what extent and how quickly it would evacuate it. Rome had provided an early response, Roland Garros confirmed it: nothing reached the Djoker.

Djokovic – Nadal, it is the logical final and undoubtedly ideal, so that it presents a maximum interest. Among the rest of the world, only Dominic Thiem could prevent this reunion. The Austrian stalled before. From there, neither the bravery of a Schwartzman, nor the effrontery of a Tsitsipas was of the size to derail this two-car train.

Casually, it had been five years since the two giants had missed each other at Roland Garros, depending on the misfortunes of one and then the other, ingredients to which we must add the emergence of Thiem, precisely. Paradoxically, it is in this year when everything is upside down, Covid-19 obliges, where the cards could have been reshuffled given the schedule and the preparation of each, not to mention the so special autumn conditions, that the Serbian and Spaniard co-sign their reunion.

We thought that the US Open marked the beginning of a cracking of the old world. But it’s not insulting Thiem and Zverev to consider that their joint presence in the final in New York owed, at least in part, not to say a lot, to the self-destruction of the Djoker and the absence of the tenant. of the Mallorcan title. Roland-Garros will have put relentless logic at the center of the game.

It might be better this way. A five-set victory for Stefanos Tsitsipas over Novak Djokovic after saving a match point and overcoming a two-set handicap would have been a monument, a legendary page, but it would probably have nipped in the bud the interest in the outcome of this curious but ultimately pleasant 2020 edition. Physically, stringing together such a feat with the challenge imposed by Nadal did not bode well.

It will weigh heavily, this final weighted on all sides with historical considerations. Rafael Nadal can equal the record for Grand Slam titles, which Roger Federer has held alone for more than eleven years. Novak Djokovic can become the first man to win every Major twice. Everything announces an apotheosis. This Djokovic is too strong not to legitimately believe in his chances, even more than in 2012 and 2014, during their two previous joint finals, and this Nadal is at home. There are only two left, and it could only be them. Roll on Sunday, even if, far from the black and white of the Truffaldian testament, we hope to see all the colors.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal

Credit: Getty Images

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