PARIS — Rafael Nadal is going for No. 9 at the French Open, and the only man that can stop him is Novak Djokovic.
Nadal is already a record eight-time champion with a lifetime 65-1 record at Roland Garros. One more victory on the red clay will make him the first man to win five in a row and give him his 14th Grand Slam title — tied in second place with Pete Sampras.
The top-seeded Spaniard reached the final by beating Wimbledon champion Andy Murray 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 Friday on Court Philippe Chatrier, the stadium Nadal calls his favourite place to play. Djokovic defeated Ernests Gulbis 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the first semifinal.
Nadal has beaten Djokovic at the French Open in all five of their meetings, starting with a quarterfinal victory in 2006. They also met in the semifinals in 2007, ’08 and ’13, and in the final in 2012.
“(It’s) nothing new for him to be in the final. He has the motivation to win Roland Garros for the first time for sure,” Nadal said of Djokovic. “But at the same time, he has the pressure to win for the first time. I have the pressure that I want to win and the motivation that I want to win the ninth.”
The second-seeded Djokovic, however, has beaten Nadal the last four times they have played, including on clay in the final in Rome last month.
“I’m going to try to be aggressive, because that is the only way I can win against him,” Djokovic said. “I know that, of course, this is the court he’s most dominant on. He has only lost one time in his career. This is where he plays his best.”
The winner on Sunday will also be ranked No. 1 on Monday. Nadal is currently at the top, but needs to extend his French Open winning streak to 35 matches to stay there.
He certainly played like the No. 1 on Friday.
Nadal jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set, then broke early again in the second and third sets. The Spaniard had six break points in the entire match, and converted each one.