The final match of the final clay court tournament before the French Open, the Internazionali BNL d’italia 2021, comes up on Sunday and will feature World No.1, Novak Djokovic against clay master, Rafael Nadal-a 57th meeting in their overlapping careers.
Djokovic has the better head-to-head record in all-time clashes; 29-27 but on clay, Nadal leads 18-7, and beat the Serbian in the 2019 Rome final and the 2020 French Open final. In the semifinal, Djokovic needed more than three hours before battling past Stefanos Tsitsipas while Nadal avenged his Madrid quarter-final loss to Alexander Zverev in straight sets and then another two-set win over Reilly Opelka set him up for the final against Djokovic.
In the lead up to the final, Djokovic has spent more time on court-battling Tsitsipas over two days and then beating Lorenzo Sonego and has said his performance in the final will be hinged on his recovery.
“First of all I need to recover, I don’t have much time and hopefully I’ll have fresh legs,” Djokovic said after his semifinal victory over Sonego. “That’s what I definitely will need to have a chance against Rafa. He’s also had some tough matches but myself with rain delays and everything which has happened. I’ll give it my all.”
Nadal also had a marathon match against Denis Shapovlov in the round of 16 – a match that lasted almost four hours, in which he saved two match points. After his victory over Opelka, Nadal said afterwards, “The work is done, I did a lot of things well. I am in a good spirit the whole week and I have done a lot of positive things on court.” He will want to finish the work with victory over Djokovic to secure a 10th title in Rome.