Novak Djokovic can today set two records even Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have never managed – one by becoming the first male tennis player of the Open Era to win each of the four Grand Slam titles on two occasions. Only two other men, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver, in the history of the sport have ever won all four majors twice. But Djokovic must down Nadal in this afternoon’s French Open final if he is to do so himself.
Although Laver completed the feat in 1969, some of his titles were won before the beginning of the Open Era.
And that means he is considered, alongside Emerson, as one of just two men to win all four titles on two separate occasions.
Djokovic clinched his first Career Grand Slam in Paris four years ago when he defeated Andy Murray in four sets.
DON’T MISS: Novak Djokovic promises ‘battle’ against Rafael Nadal ahead of final
And the 17-time major winner has since been triumphant at the Australian Open twice, Wimbledon twice and the US Open once.
The world No 1 is however still to add to his tally of success at Roland Garros, with Nadal triumphant here in all of the last three years.
The Spaniard, also known as the ‘King of Clay’ is a 12-time champion on the red stuff and boasts a phenomenal 99-2 record at this event.
He has won 29 straight matches since being beaten by Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-final, with the Serbian going on to finish as runner-up to Stan Wawrinka.
Djokovic himself admits facing Nadal on his favoured surface is “the greatest challenge in sport” and it will take a faultless performance to down the second seed.
The second record Djokovic can equal today is that he can become just the third man in history to win both the Australian Open and French Open titles in the same year on multiple occasions.
He first did so in 2016, his sole triumph at Roland Garros, and became the first man to do the double in Melbourne and Paris since Jim Courier in 1992.
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Federer and Nadal, despite their combined number of 39 Slams, have never been able to win both titles in the same calendar year.
Nadal’s sole Australian Open win came in 2009 when he lost to Swede Robin Soderling in the fourth round of the French Open, while Federer’s sole major in France came in 2009 when he was beaten in the final in Melbourne the same year by Nadal.
Previewing today’s big-three battle, Djokovic said: “I’ve played him [Nadal] more than any other player in my career. He’s definitely my greatest rival.
“Playing him in so many great matches, the past will have some effect in terms of respect towards each other and motivation to get out there and play your best.
“I hopefully will be able to play my tennis because that’s what’s gonna be needed, but I’m in position to be close to the trophy.
“I’ve been there, I’ve done it, I know what needs to be done. Of course I will bring a lot of passion and try to win on Sunday but he has won so many times here.
“But he might still have the memory from 2015 when I beat him in the quarter-final. So I have some hope.
“I hopefully will be able to play my best tennis, because that’s what’s going to be needed in order to have a shot at the trophy.
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“It’s his ‘maison’. I will have to be at my best. Playing Nadal at Roland Garros is the biggest challenge in our sport.
“This is what it comes down to. I’ve been there; I’ve done it. I understand what needs to be done and how I need to prepare myself. I’m looking forward to it.”
But Eurosport expert Mats Wilander fears Djokovic being taken to five sets by Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals will leave him tired in the final.
“For Novak Djokovic, that’s what he will be disappointed with. He could have put this match away in three sets and didn’t do it.
“A match like this will add just a little bit for Novak in the final. I thought that going into the final that Rafa would need to make a good start.
“But now after this match this evening, then maybe Novak is the one that needs a great start because he’ll be feeling this one a little bit.
“I think Rafa seeing Novak losing two sets gives Rafa another reason to literally go to the limit and beyond on the court before he loses on Sunday.”
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