Novak Djokovic believes he has a ‘better chance’ of beating Rafael Nadal in the French Open final because of the conditions at this year’s Roland Garros tournament.
Nadal is bidding to win a record-extending 13th French Open title but faces long-time rival and 17-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic in Sunday’s final.
It will be the 56th time they have played each other during their careers and the ninth time in a Grand Slam final.
Nadal, who has 18 Grand Slam wins, is the best clay-court player in history, losing only twice at Roland Garros during his career.
But the French Open is usually played in May and June – the tournament was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic – and Djokovic says the slightly different conditions at this year’s event give him a ‘better chance’ against Nadal.
‘Rafa has won this tournament so many times, I don’t think any player has won a tournament that many times,’ Djokovic said after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets to reach the final.
‘Obviously the conditions are different than the ones that we are used to playing in May and June. I think that could give me a better chance, obviously with the ball not bouncing as high as Rafa likes it to.
‘But look, regardless of the conditions, he’s still there, he’s Rafa, he’s in the final and we’re playing on clay.
‘I have lost to him on this court but I also won in 2015 in straight sets. That’s the match I’ll look back at and obviously try to take some positives out of it and use it tactically against him.’
Djokovic raced into a two-set lead over Tsitsipas in Friday’s semi-final but then missed a match point before the Greek fifth seek produced an impressive fightback, winning the next two sets.
The Serbia legend won the fifth set emphatically, however, to set up a mouth-watering clash with Nadal in Paris.
‘I’m not feeling exhausted physically,’ Djokovic insisted after beating Tsitsipas. ‘It was a great battle but I feel fine.
‘I think a day and a half will be plenty of time for me to recover. I’m really looking forward to a great battle with Rafa.’
Nadal, meanwhile, defeated Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman in straight sets in his semi-final clash.
The Spaniard said: ‘It is always very difficult against Diego until the end. I am happy with the way I played, I think I have been improving and it was a very positive match for me.
‘The only thing I know is to play against Novak, I need to play my best. Without playing my best tennis, the situation is very difficult.
‘I know I have to make a step forward. I think I did one today. But for Sunday it is not enough. I need to make another one.’
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