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Ask TTI: Who Will Win? (Djokovic vs. Nadal)

It’s the kind of prediction post typically saved for a final, but one of the French Open quarters has taken on a decidedly more epic feel. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal have clashed on the terre battue in two of the last three finals, but with Nadal’s inconsistencies, the two are forced to play their earliest Grand Slam match since 2006. The TTI crew gathered around the table to give our their picks on who will reach their fifth straight French Open semifinal. Have their opinions changed since making their post-draw predictions? Follow along with our final picks with the easy-to-follow grid below!

RENÉ

I picked Djokovic to make the semis and to win the title. So I have to lay in the bed that I’ve made myself, don’t I?

I actually don’t feel entirely uncomfortable with my pick. Unfortunately for Nadal, the heatwave forecast for this week seems to be arriving just a day too late for the Spaniard to aid him in Wednesday’s quarterfinal. The conditions certainly won’t be damp or rainy, but it doesn’t look like it’ll heat up sufficiently for the Spaniard’s heavy topspin forehand to bounce up as high.

Djokovic, on the other hand, will have to fight some of his own demons — I’ve discussed some of those in advance of the tournament — the question is just how tight those will  make him. Nerves have gotten the better of the Serb in past winning positions in Paris, but I don’t think it is going to happen this time around. Having said that, the former No. 1 has arguably played himself into better shape and looks more at ease than he has for a long time. Will it be enough for him to defeat Djokovic? I don’t think so — but I reckon it will be a pretty close match on Wednesday afternoon.

Prediction: Djokovic in five

ANDREW

For me, this match is a coin toss. At the beginning of the tournament I was fairly convinced that I’d be picking Djokovic to quickly come through this quarter, but as play has progressed I’ve grown less certain. That said, the Serb has moved through this draw almost invisibly for a No. 1 seed, cruising through his matches with the dominance we’ve come to know so well. He looked nervous in the first round, and there is a good chance that nerves will play a very big part in this quarter-final.

Nadal has been solid throughout, but he also hasn’t faced a huge challenge thus far. He’ll be fired up, for sure, and I think this will take him to two sets. In the end, I think Djokovic is so much more used to winning that his confidence will bring him through a tight battle.

No matter what, I expect hours of tennis.

Prediction: Djokovic in five

VIKA

I, like René, also picked Djokovic to win this whole thing nearly a fortnight ago. Ever true to my picks — thanks, Andreea Mitu! — I have to stick with Djokovic.

Having dropped just one set between them en route to this –– the quarterfinal of all quarterfinals™ (or so I’ve been told) — all signs are pointing that we’re in for a long one. These two have had marathon meetings here in recent years, but just one of the last three has come before the final. I’m sure you (and probably Pascal Maria, while I’m at it) remember it well:

Aside from a late-match charge by Jack Sock, Nadal hasn’t really been challenged yet in this tournament; I feel that might be a double-edged sword for the Spaniard. While he showed off some of the most solid tennis we’ve seen from him in recent months in his first four matches at Roland Garros, he faced a crop of streaky and/or unpolished hitters — no one who could’ve put him under the sustained and relentless pressure he’ll undoubtedly face from Djokovic.

This one will come down to the wire, but I think that might make the difference in the tightest moments — and that the World No. 1 will be the one to come through most of them.

Prediction: Djokovic in five

NICK

This prediction is more of a gut feeling prediction than anything. I just believe that Nadal is going to turn up on Wednesday and find a way to win. He did it in last year’s final — even when he wasn’t playing his best. Djokovic has been the better player coming their matches before, and will obviously is the better player coming into this year’s match.

I would be shocked if he isn’t infinitely more aggressive than he was against Djokovic in Monte Carlo, ripping shots down the line and inside out with his forehand.

The other factor to consider is Djokovic’s level of play. Mentally, I wonder how he will be able to handle it if he goes a set up, like he did last year. Will he feel as if the tournament is in his hands, if he’s serving for the match in the fourth set? Who knows. Again, I have another strong inclination that we are not going to see the best of Novak Djokovic on Wednesday.

I could be totally wrong and usually I don’t like to just use my gut, but for this I will. Please don’t laugh at me too hard on Wednesday evening.

Prediction: Nadal in four

JANE

To back away from my pre-tournament prediction would disrupt my serenity, so Nadal it will be. He had not dropped a set until American Jack Sock ran off three games to steal the third of their fourth round encounter. Nadal’s wavering was disturbing and re-opened the question of his confidence.

Yet, he clocked Sock 6-2 in the fourth to advance to the quarterfinal we’ve all anticipated. Although Novak Djokovic’s season has outstripped every player on the planet, several facts remain. His record against Nadal at Roland Garros is 0-6. Plus, the Spaniard is now 71-1 in Paris, with Roger Federer not too far behind. Court Philippe Chartrier is Nadal’s court, and it fits Nadal’s style perfectly. It allows him to run, create and switch-up strategies — which he is brilliant at, perhaps the best.

Prediction: Nadal in five

JEFF

I’m sticking with my pre-tournament pick of Djokovic. Even though Nadal has looked good — really good — over the first four rounds of play, he also looked good in the matches he played in Monte Carlo, Madrid, and Rome before losing to much more established opposition. Obviously Roland Garros is his territory and beating him in a best of five on clay is the ultimate test, but it’s not like Djokovic has been far from it in the past.

In 2012, he had all the momentum to get into a fifth set before a rain delay, and was nearly a game away in 2013 before having a lapse in spatial judgment, and came out strong last year before succumbing. The Serb’s Monte Carlo win over Nadal was emphatic and if he can bring the same focus, tactics and intensity he might finally overcome his greatest rival in the toughest challenge.

Prediction: Djokovic in four

DAVID

Ok, so here’s how I think it’ll go down:

The match will play out the way most think it will: high quality shot-making, grueling rallies, and four sets of theatrical tennis.

But at the start of the fifth, things will start to get interesting…

As Nadal prepares to serve, it will occur to the Spaniard that his entire outfit is on backward.

Naturally, he will request to leave the court and change. Fair, says umpire Kader Nouni (because isn’t it always Kader Nouni this week?), but you will get a time violation.

Another? Nadal queries, incredulous at the thought. He points his finger at the Frenchman.

You’ll never work in this town again. Nadal warns, trudging off the court.

Meanwhile, Djokovic is across the net attempting to keep his cool. After all, this is perhaps his best chance to beat Nadal and win his first French Open title. He procures a refreshment from a ballkid but — quel horreur! — the beverage is carbonated.

How could the ballkid be so careless? He was rooting for him. We were all rooting for him.

Djokovic retreats to his seat, pondering his next move.

Bottle in hand, he decides to get some revenge on the reason for this unjust delay.

Nadal returns, but the drama — she is too much. They have to sit down.

Prediction: CHAOS. (in five)

TTI’s Picks:

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 4.11.36 PM

Who would you have chosen? Sound off in the comments!

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About David Kane (138 Articles)
23-year-old tennis writer. Long Island raised me, @Twitter made me. My hindrances are deliberate; my whole life is thunder. @DKTNNS

1 Comment on Ask TTI: Who Will Win? (Djokovic vs. Nadal)

  1. Here are some reasons why I think Nadal is being counted out too easily:

    I’m not too sure of the outcome of this match mainly because I haven’t watched Djokovic’s matches lately therefore not sure of his level-can’t deduce much from his opponents esp Muller and Gasquet who he should destroy but I’m inclined to think his current form is a bit exaggerated like all no.1’s.

    To have a proper perspective of this we have to remember that the 34 yr old Federer is currently no.2 because Nadal and Murray have been in the process of coming back to their best form for well over 6 months.
    So dominance doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s playing better than before judging from the winning streak alone.

    The other general point I’d like to make is judging from the history of their rivalry Nadal doesn’t have to be at his absolute best to beat Djokvovic in Grand Slams-at least not anymore and esp not here in Roland Garros. How did I come up w this conclusion? simple-I jsut remembered the last 2 chapters of their Grand slam rivalry. In particular the US Open(Didn’t watch RG last year).
    At the time I remember thinking Nadal won that match playing some clutch tennis and perhaps there was some luck involved as well as being inspired-the more intangible factors. After watching some of the match again the other night though I realized he was simply the stronger,better player.
    Judging from the scorelines of their last 2 Slam encounters seems to me an in-form Nadal has evolved and got the better of Djokovic. He was starting to be Djokovic’s achilles heel? well then he got injured and he became the underdog again for the umf-teenth time in his career before he could have a chance to consolidate this in the public eye.

    So the next question is has Nadal arrived at that near-his best form in order to be able to have a good chance to beat Djokovic in the Quarter finals?
    Again I can’t say for sure but I’m inlcined to say yes.
    If you look at their previous match performances one thing sticks out-the quality of their opponents. Nadal has had a lucky draw in the sense that it is helping him to get back to his form. Kuznetsov and Sock are MUCH tougher opponents than a fatigued,ill-matched Gasquet or a serve and volleying Muller who lost by only 6 games or an out of sorts Nieminen who hasn’t showed much this season in regards to his form. They would be tougher opponents even if those other players were at their best. The Sock and Kuznetsov we saw in this tournament are simply much better players on this surface. But its esp their shot quality which is helping Nadal find his own shots. Both have brought their best tennis here. Kuznetsov’z agressive shots have found their zone in this tournament and Sock’s shot-making as well as his mental strength took a set off of Nadal only for NAdal to destroy him in the 4th set. If it were the semifinals it might be more costly to have to go through that extra set but at this juncture in time it might work in Nadal’s favor to have that extra time to hit w a 1st rate ball striker in Sock which is really what he’s needed all these months. He had that w Murray in Madrid and you could visibly see Nadal’s game growng in intensity in the 2nd set.
    I’d say the same thing in the 3rd set vs Berdych at Aussie. Unfortuantely he was overhitting it and he decided not to play percentage tennis just going for his shots so it was all the easier for Murray to finish it in 2. I mention that example to show how quickly Nadal is able to find his range and form from a single set given the proper opponent to exchange hits with. He is clearly moving a lot better now than before and that has certainly patched much of his biggest weakness lately in his backhand. Forehand is almost completely there. Serve could use some improvements but I think Nadal should tweak it in this match for the first time.

    About meeting 2 matches earlier than the traditional final. Remember that Djokovic also has his momentum throughout the tournament and he is more used to peaking at the final or at least the semi-finals. Nadal has played many more matches here over the course of the last 10 years and can easily draw from his experience to be better orientated to this specific situation. I suspect that Djokovic will have some of his usual lapses as much as he will try to avoid them and ofcourse playing Nadal greatly increases those chances since Nadal’s agression is also very much about attacking the opponent’s mental focus and consistency. Remember when Djokovic was lost the point vs Muller for touching the ball before it bounced out? not a good sign. Reminds me of how he ran into the net in ’13 final or when he failed that easy put away at the net on Wawrinka’s matchpoint in Aussie ’14.
    If Nadal improves visibly which I find a distinct possiblity/probability esp in the 2nd set I suspect it will be difficult for Nole to fully come to terms w it esp mid-match-it might cost him the match?

    imo if Nole is not able win the 1st set by at least 2+ breaks he will not emerge the victor. I think you’ve got to favor Nadal if it arrives to the 5th set but this time I’d favor him only very slightly-like in 2013. Nole’s best chance is to win it more quickly sets 1,2 and 4. 2nd set as always is the pivot.

    Like

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