PARIS — Here comes the French Open final everyone expected and, except for other players, wanted:
No. 1 Novak Djokovic, one victory from becoming the first man in 43 years to win four consecutive major championships, against No. 2 Rafael Nadal, one victory from becoming the only man to win seven titles at Roland Garros.
How’s that for high stakes?
Djokovic is undefeated in his past 27 Grand Slam matches, which includes beating Nadal in the finals at Wimbledon in July, the U.S. Open in September, and the Australian Open in January. Nadal has won 51 of 52 career matches at the French Open; only he and Bjorn Borg have won the clay-court tournament six times.
Never before have the same two men met in four Grand Slam finals in a row, so it’s apt that no matter who wins Sunday, his achievement will be monumental.
“I have this golden opportunity to make history. This motivates me. It really inspires me,” said the 25-year-old Djokovic, who owns five Grand Slam titles to Nadal’s 10.
Won’t be easy, that’s for sure.
Both Djokovic and Nadal breezed through their semifinals Friday. If this stage of a Grand Slam tournament is supposed to provide a challenge, it did not — which probably isn’t all that stunning in Nadal’s case, but was rather striking when you consider Djokovic faced 16-time major champion Roger Federer and won, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, in a match that wasn’t really that close.
“His mental state and preparation for this match was excellent,” said Djokovic’s coach, Marian Vadja, “and this has to happen against Rafa.”
Nadal found himself flying by the seat of his pants — OK, white shorts — on one point against No. 6 David Ferrer, somehow winning the exchange despite falling on his rump. Otherwise, he was completely in control en route to 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 victory.”
The women’s final today pits 5-foot-41/2 Sara Errani of Italy against 6-2 Maria Sharapova of Russia.
Until a quarterfinal run at this year’s Australian Open, Errani had never had been past the third round at a Grand Slam tournament.
Until this week, she was 0-28 against players ranked in the top 10. Now she’s 2-28, thanks to victories over No. 6 Sam Stosur in the semifinals, and No. 10 Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals. Those upsets followed wins over two past French Open champions: 2008’s Ana Ivanovic and 2009’s Svetlana Kuznetsova.