Men's Final Preview: Nadal vs. Djokovic
by Sandra Harwitt|
Here’s a final matchup that every tennis fan can be happy with watching: world No. 1 Rafael Nadal against world No. 2 Novak Djokovic. It doesn’t happen all that frequently that the draw at a big event goes to form. The last time it happened in the men’s competition at the Sony Ericsson Open was in 1995 when No. 2 Andre Agassi beat No. 1 Pete Sampras in a third set tie-break.
Here’s hoping we’ll be seeing a blockbuster match to rival that Agassi and Sampras classic that went the distance today. And, at least on paper, that should be the case as these guys are legitimately the two best in the business.
Interestingly, there are those that would insist that Djokovic is the favourite over Nadal in this match. It would be hard to argue against that point as it would be hard to not agree with those who would give the advantage to Nadal.
Djokovic is certainly the premier player of the 2011 season with three months completed. He’s won every tournament he’s entered – winning his second career Australian Open, Dubai, and Indian Wells. All that adds up to an astonishing 23-0 record for the season – if you want you can say he’s 25-0 since he won his final two matches in 2010 during Serbia’s successful Davis Cup final outing against France. During this amazing streak, the Serb’s won 57 of 62 sets played – pretty heady stuff. What makes that Indian Wells final most intriguing in terms of today’s match is that Djokovic won the title with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Nadal.
Djokovic is eager to join the short-list of players who have won back-to-back titles at Indian Wells and Miami. Roger Federer was the last guy to perform that magic in 2005 and ‘06. The other guys who accomplished the dual victories in the same year were Andre Agassi (2001), Marcelo Rios (1998), Pete Sampras (1994), Michael Chang (1992) and Jim Courier (1991).
Here’s how Nadal is looking coming into the final. First and foremost, if his phenomenal 6-3, 6-2 drubbing of Roger Federer is an indication of the game he’s bringing into the final, watch out Djokovic. Nadal could do no wrong on Friday night, while Federer was not anywhere near his best, which left fans a bit disappointed with the quality of the encounter.
Now Nadal hasn’t won a title since the 2010 Tokyo event last fall, so he’s looking to get the ball rolling with a first title for the year. Besides for losing to Djokovic in the Indian Wells final, Nadal was a semi-finalist in Doha, and a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open.
How do these guys stack up against each other?
Nadal’s won 43 career titles, which includes nine Grand Slam titles with at least one win at all four of the majors. Djokovic has won 21 career titles, which includes two Australian Open victories. Djokovic won the 2009 title here and was a finalist in 2007. Nadal is still waiting on his first Miami trophy after being in two previous finals and he’s hoping that honor will come today.
Nadal leads their matchups 16-8 with a 5-1 record in finals – the Indian Wells defeat was the Spaniard’s only final loss to Djokovic. Playing to Djokovic’s strength is his 8-5 record over Nadal on hard courts, which is what they play on at the Sony Ericsson Open. In contrast, Nadal is 11-0 against Djokovic on all other surfaces.
Here’s what seems to be an important tip in judging who will win this outing between today. The winner of the opening set has taken the victory 21 of their 24 previous meetings.
Djokovic’s perfect season is just stunning and he’s secured his role as the rightful No. 2. But all good things must come to an end and his winning streak will stop at sometime this year. Give the nod to Nadal to score his first Sony Ericsson Open title after two failed trips to the Miami final.
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