French Open ATP Finals Preview: Historic scenarios for Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are set to face off for the 56th time at tomorrow French Open final. Here is a full preview of the match and its historical implications.

In the 15-plus years that the Big 3 have reigned over men’s tennis, no match between two of them have had this many historical implications. Roger Federer currently leads Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the Grand Slam count with 20. As they come into the twilights on their careers, the window is closing for them to increase their numbers.

With a win, Nadal will move to 13-0 in French Open finals, increasing the record of most titles at a single Grand Slam and the best record in a Grand Slam final. Not only that, he’ll tie Federer with 20 in the overall Grand Slam count. While Nadal will likely be a top contender in Paris and at the US Open over the next few years, Federer is 39 years old and will likely need a miracle to win another Grand Slam title.

It will also hold off Novak Djokovic from a Grand Slam that he’s never beaten Nadal on his way to the title. It significantly dampens the case for Djokovic as the greatest player of all-time if he still can’t beat Nadal on clay.

On the other side of things, this is easily the most important Grand Slam final that Djokovic will ever take part in. A win will push him within one title of Nadal and two of Federer while still having the most amount of projected time to contend before he retires. His dominance in Australia and at Wimbledon in his career has clearly shown that’ll he’ll be able to gather at least one more each (likely more).

As discussed by many, a win for Djokovic will give him the double Career Grand Slam, making him the first man in the Open Era (and the first overall since Rod Laver in 1969) to accomplish the feat. Federer has yet to win a second title in Paris and the same goes for Nadal in Australia.

It will surely spur Djokovic into the top spot as the greatest men’s tennis player of all-time. His statistical dominance since 2011 has been unmatched by anyone past or present. With wins over Federer on grass and a — hypothetical — one on clay over Nadal is legendary. The current era of men’s tennis has been the deepest and toughest era of the sport. Some of the greatest players to step on court, such as Andy Murray, could only muster three major titles due to the dominance of the Big 3.

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It’s going to be an all-out battle for a good while tomorrow. The pair has faced off in a few legendary battles over the years, including the 2012 Australian Open final that Djokovic prevailed in five hours and 53 minutes, as well as their 2018 Wimbledon semifinal (that Djokovic also took). It might be the last historical installment of the “Rafole” rivalry, so enjoy it while you can.