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Ricky’s Preview And Pick For The French Open Tennis Finals • Rafa Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic

By Ricky Dimon

History will be on the line when the Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal rivalry adds another chapter in the French Open final on Sunday.

With a win, Nadal would tie Roger Federer atop the all-time men’s singles Grand Slam title chart at 20. Meanwhile, Djokovic has a chance to become the only member of the current Big 3 to win all four slams at least twice.

Beating Nadal in a Roland Garros title match would also be a historic feat for Djokovic, as no one has done it before. The Serb is, however, one of only two men who have toppled Nadal on the terre battue of Paris (in the 2015 quarterfinals). That is part of his overall 29-26 advantage in the head-to-head series, but it is all tied up 4-4 in Grand Slam finals and 3-3 in their last six matchups. During this recent stretch of six encounters, Nadal is 3-0 on clay and Djokovic is 3-0 on hard courts or grass.

Those statistics are hardly a surprise, of course. Although Nadal is not exactly invincible on clay right now, he does remain dominant–especially at the French Open. Losses in warmup events have rarely meant anything for the 34-year-old Spaniard, so everyone should have seen it coming when Nadal lost to Diego Schwartzman in Rome and then trounced him in straight sets in the Roland Garros semis on Friday. That improved the 12-time champion’s record to a ridiculous 99-2 lifetime at this event.

Yes, a win on Sunday will give him a perfect 100 in his illustrious French Open career.

But it obviously won’t be easy against Djokovic. The top-ranked Serb is undefeated this season aside from his infamous U.S. Open default against Pablo Carreno Busta. He has recovered in style, triumphing in Rome and storming into the quarterfinals this fortnight without surrendering a set. However, things got tricky thereafter. Djokovic was less than 100 percent physically while avenging his “loss” to Carreno Busta with a four-set victory and he needed five sets to hold off Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semis.

Of the two finalists, Djokovic looks more vulnerable at the moment. It is true that conditions for Nadal in early October are not ideal, but Court Philippe-Chatrier played faster and with higher bounces than all of the other courts throughout the whole tournament.

It is simply too tough to pick against the King of Clay in a French Open final, even against the toughest of all opponents.

Pick: Nadal in 4Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.