Live French Open Final Tracker: Tie Entering 3rd Set

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Rafael Nadal, a 12-time French Open champion, has never lost a final at Roland Garros and has never been pushed past four sets. He could tie Roger Federer on Sunday with a 20th Grand Slam singles title, a men’s record.

Novak Djokovic, the top seed and a 17-time Grand Slam singles champion, is on a quest to win each of the four Grand Slam events for a second time and to eventually catch his rivals in major titles.

Nadal is playing about as good as it gets.

The best tennis player in the world, in a year when he finishes the year at No. 1, wins no more than 55 percent of the points he plays. Dominance in tennis is a lot more subtle than most people realize.

But there is nothing subtle about what Nadal is doing to Djokovic. During the first two sets, Nadal has won 66 points to 44 for Djokovic. In the second set, it was 34-25. That is about as dominant as a player can be, especially against the best player in the world.

Djokovic had a plan — use a backhand drop shot to Nadal’s backhand. Nadal knew this was coming and he is playing that way.

As Mike Tyson used to say, everyone has a plan until they smacked in the mouth. Nadal has smacked Djokovic in the mouth. Does Djokovic have a Plan B?

Nadal wins the second set 6-2.

The drop shot has been one of Djokovic’s primary weapons during this French Open — a smart choice based on the heavy, low-bouncing conditions in October.

He hit more than 140 coming into the final and has not deviated from that plan against Nadal. But he has had only limited success.

Nadal goes up another break for a 2-1 lead in the second set.

Djokovic got on the board by winning the first game of the second set, but he’s still no match for Nadal’s consistency. Through nine games, Djokovic has hit 21 unforced errors, compared to just three for Nadal.

Nadal quickly went after Djokovic’s serve again in the third game.

Djokovic saved two break points — the first by hitting each sideline on consecutive shots and the second with a crosscourt backhand that landed behind Nadal.

But the third break point was Nadal’s after Djokovic twisted a forehand into the net.

Djokovic is hurting himself with his serve placement.

It goes without saying that Nadal is crushing Djokovic’s spirit by dominating his serve, but the problem may have more to do with Djokovic than with Nadal.

Throughout the tournament, Nadal has continued to receive serves from far behind the baseline, even as other players have crept closer into the court to take advantage of the slower, heavier ball.

The way to punish an opponent who is standing so far back is to send them a serve out wide, so that he is in a terrible position to get into the point after the return. But Djokovic’s serve, especially his second serve, is not going anywhere near the lines, giving Nadal a chance to tee off on the ball and switch from defense to offense early in the point.

That’s how you end up winning just 10 of 22 points on first serve and seven of 16 on second serve through four service games.

Nadal dominates in the opening set and wins it 6-0.

An extraordinary start for Nadal gets more extraordinary as he saves two break points on his serve to hold and then breaks Djokovic for the third time in the set, this time from 40-0.

He then held on his serve to win the first set, 6-0.

Nadal’s ball striking is crisp, his movement remarkable and his judgment close-to-impeccable at this early stage.

His 5-0 lead left Djokovic shaking his head and puffing out his cheeks even after he won points. The pressure is intense, and a lot of his playbook is in tatters, including his heavy reliance on the drop shot.

Djokovic had not previously lost a set 6-0 in a Grand Slam final. During the break, several fans serenaded him in Serbian, in hopes of lifting him up for the second set.

The one place Nadal has not had success early on is at net, winning just three of eight points so far when brought forward in the court. He also has only won seven of 15 rallies that have extended to nine or more shots.

Nadal gained an early 3-0 edge by winning twice on Djokovic’s serve.

Nadal drew first blood in this French Open final, breaking Djokovic in the opening game of the match. Djokovic showed a heavy reliance on his drop shot during the first game, hitting them early in rallies with mixed success as Nadal pounced for an opening break.

Djokovic then drew from 40-15 to deuce on Nadal’s following service game, but Nadal consolidated the break with a hold.

Nadal furthered his lead to a double break one game later, going up 3-0 as Djokovic’s cross-court backhand hit the net on Nadal’s second break point of the game.

The new roof on the stadium is closed because of rain.

With a bit of rainy weather, the roof on Phillipe Chatrier Court is closed for the men’s final. There are so few fans that the rain can be heard pelting the roof.

According to French Open policy, a match that begins with a closed roof must continue with a closed roof, even if it is sunny outside.

That makes this the first French Open final to be played indoors. But is this truly indoors?

Mladenovic and Babos won in doubles after a virus-related disqualification from U.S. Open.

Forced to withdraw from the United States Open because of a mid-tournament change in policy, Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos channeled their frustration into another run to the French Open women’s doubles title.

They defended their title on Sunday with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over surprise finalists Desirae Krawczyk and Alexa Guarachi.

Mladenovic finished off the victory with a forehand passing shot, then dropped her racket on the clay and was soon locked in a deep embrace with Babos.

“We were unlucky,” Mladenovic said of Paire.

Paire tested positive before the U.S. Open and was withdrawn from the singles and isolated in the player hotel. Contact tracing determined that Paire had extended exposure to Mladenovic and several other French and Belgian players and coaches. That group — nicknamed The Paire 11 — was required to quarantine for two weeks. Initially, members of the group signed a new agreement with U.S. Open organizers that restricted their movements and contact with other players, requiring them to stay in their hotel but allowing them to continue training and playing in the tournament.

But Nassau County health officials, who had jurisdiction over the player hotel in Long Island, later enforced a stricter quarantine. Mladenovic, the last of the group still in contention at the U.S. Open, was no longer allowed to leave the hotel. She and Babos were unable to play their second-round match with Gabriela Dabrowski and Alison Riske.

This final plays right into the Greatest of All Time debate.

Much as last year’s Wimbledon final between Djokovic and Federer was, this could be a crucial match in determining who finishes with the men’s record for Grand Slam singles titles.

Federer, 39, who has not played since January and has undergone two knee operations, holds the lead with 20 Grand Slam singles titles. Nadal, who sits at 19, can tie that record with his 13th French Open title on Sunday. And Djokovic, who has won 17, can pull within one of Nadal with a win on Sunday. Djokovic would also become the first man in the Open era to have won each of the Grand Slam events twice.

A question for Federer and his fans to ponder on Sunday: Which potential champion more jeopardizes Federer’s ultimate standing when all is said and done?

Djokovic has had a messy 2020.

Novak Djokovic has had one of the best seasons in tennis history when the ball has been in play, and one of the most messy when it has not been.

He has not lost a completed match all year, racking up a 37-0 record in matches played to fruition, including titles at the ATP Cup, the Australian Open, Dubai, the Western & Southern Open (moved from Cincinnati to New York) and Rome.

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