For the 49th time these two gladiators are set to battle and where better else than Rome? Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had to work hard for their victories in the last round and their meeting today could be massive ahead of Roland Garros.
A win for Rafael Nadal would be a massive psychological boost ahead of Roland Garros where he’d be one of the favourites whereas for Novak Djokovic victory is essential having never won Roland Garros before and defeat here in Rome would be a big blow and would pile on more pressure over the next couple of weeks.
Their head to head is very close with Novak leading it at 25-23 however their recent head to head has been one way traffic with Novak winning 10 of their last 11 meetings with Rafa’s win coming at the French Open final in 2014.
Novak has been so dominant that since losing the French Open final two years ago he hasn’t dropped a set against Rafa in their last six meetings.
There was a time yesterday when it looked like we were going to be denied a Rafa v Novak meeting in Rome. Nadal did take a while to get going against Kyrgios, the Spaniard remained competitive in the first set despite losing it on the tie-breaker but took a while to find his best shots and to break the rhythm of Kyrgios until mid-way through the second set and in set three the Spaniard was hitting top gear especially off the forehand.
Novak Djokovic surprised everyone last night by losing the first set 6-0 against Thomaz Bellucci who played an exceptional set of tennis against the world number who didn’t serve well and was being pushed back by the angles and depth the Brazilian got on the ball with it being the first bagel Novak had received for over 6 years!
I didn’t think Bellucci did much wrong in set two or three but Novak got better, he served well and stuck in the longer rallies compared to set one and well it paid off forcing errors from Bellucci.
Normally I would say Novak is the favourite but he hasn’t been his usual ruthless self on court recently and Rafa needs to start better than he did against Kyrgios as I can’t see Novak starting the match as bad as he did against Bellucci.
This is Novak’s to lose and if he does more questions and pressure will be on him at Roland Garros which is the only Grand Slam missing from his collection.