You can be forgiven for forgetting what the French Open was like last year. The new night sessions, giving a different look and life to the major. The empty stands (due to coronavirus) – which affected a number of matches.
However, it was also a major which became anybody’s ball game as soon as Novak had dumped Nadal out of the tournament. It was only the 3rd time in 16 years that Nadal had ever been dumped from the French Open before winning the final.
It is why Roland Garros really is the major which will garner the most excitement for many. Djokovic will never be the real favourite to win the French Open as long as the 13 time winner Rafael Nadal is in the draw. It is this mystique, the idea of Novak winning a major he is not supposed to win, which will be his crowning glory in 2022- if he pulls it off. At Wimbledon, he will likely come in as the favourite.
However, given Novak missed this year’s Australian Open, being able to win 2 majors this season will entirely ease the pain of missing the Australian Open
The last phase of one of the greatest rivalries in sport- in recent memory- is closer to its end than its beginning. Nadal would likely have never have caught Novak if he continued to win Australian Opens. You do the math. There are 4 majors in the year, 3 of which suit Novak more than Nadal.
However, given his issues in entering Australia and the US this year (having missed a major in the former, and 2 masters in the latter), it is very possible that the grand slam race could end in a tie between Nadal and Djokovic. At the very least, these next few years will be more even than it has ever been. Nadal and Djokovic will likely be on the same number of grand slams for the next 3 years. Fighting tooth and nail, neck and neck. Given both players are separated by 50 wins, it is also entirely plausible that both finish on a similar number of match wins. With both having an eerily identical match win percentage and Masters 1000 tally, this race to the top may very well be the most interesting race of them all.