After a week full of surprises and some really excellent matches, it’s come down once again to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. This will be Nadal and Djokovic’s 12th ATP Masters 1000 final. Their routes through the draw have been trickier than most Masters 1000 tournaments. Djokovic has been taken to three sets in his last three matches. In the quarter-finals, he defeated David Ferrer, 7-5 4-6 6-3 in a match featuring an array of brutal baseline rallies. The toughest match of his week was still yet to come though as Djokovic fought for exactly three hours with Milos Raonic, eventually prevailing, 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-3. It was a great match and an encouraging performance from Raonic, who has really improved leaps and bounds this year. Still, I don’t agree with all the talk about him being a future world number or even a Grand Slam champion. Not yet at least. If he was the “real deal” I would have expected one or two big wins in his career as he is 23 years old. This year, he has secured just one top ten win, which came over a struggling Andy Murray in Indian Wells.
Nadal’s most testing match came in the quarter-finals against Andy Murray where he edged the deciding set, 7-5. Like Djokovic, he has lost three sets this week with Gilles Simon (R2) and Mikhail Youzhny (R3) both putting up stern resistance. The match against Murray felt like a pivotal one for Nadal in this 2014 clay court swing as he came back from a breadstick opening set to produce some of his best tennis in 2014. In the semi-finals, he rather suprisingly swept past Grigor Dimitrov, 6-2 6-2. It was a disappointing performance from Dimitrov, yet one of Nadal’s cleanest performances of the year. Rather suddenly, his up-till-now shaky clay court season, appears to be on the turn.
I have previewed so many Nadal v Djokovic matches that I don’t have much new stuff to add to the cauldron. Nadal will try to dictate play with his forehand down-the-line and Djokovic will attempt to do the same with his backhand. The commentators frequently discuss that when you see either achieving those shots on a consistent basis, they are feeling confident. Their last match in Miami saw Djokovic produce a near-perfect performance in the final, 6-3 6-3. You can read my recap of that match HERE. Personally, I think that match took a rather huge whack at Nadal’s confidence. He was simply outplayed. On clay and based on their form in their last two matches in Rome, Nadal will be the favourite. However Djokovic has quite a significant edge in the head-to-head winning their last three matches since the 2013 US Open final. A tough one to call as all Nadal-Djokovic matches always are. I’ll go for Djokovic….
Prediction: Djokovic d. Nadal in 3 sets