• April 26, 2019

Djokovic eyes French Open final against Nadal as clay begins - Odessa American: Sports

e-Edition Subscribe

Djokovic eyes French Open final against Nadal as clay begins

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Sunday, April 14, 2019 5:15 pm | Updated: 5:45 pm, Sun Apr 14, 2019.

MONACO (AP) — As Novak Djokovic begins his preparations for a fourth straight Grand Slam title, he likes to imagine beating Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.

"That would be the match of the season, yes," Djokovic said Sunday at the Monte Carlo Masters. Djokovic and his longtime rival Nadal are starting their clay-court seasons this week at Monte Carlo, their first tuneup on clay ahead of the May 26-June 9 French Open in Paris, and which could see them meet for a 54th time if they reach the final.

Toppling Nadal at Roland Garros, where the Spaniard is the defending champion and a record 11-time winner, is what Djokovic really wants.

It's something Djokovic considers "one of the ultimate challenges of the sport" — much like facing Roger Federer during his grass-court prime at Wimbledon. They are the three most successful players in Grand Slam history: Federer has won a record 20 majors, Nadal 17 and Djokovic is catching them up with 15.

The top-ranked Djokovic has won the past three majors in straight sets, including a stunning rout of Nadal in the Australian Open final this year. He also has a 28-25 winning record against Nadal — a considerable achievement in itself.

Yet despite all the positive points stacked up, he considers Nadal a different and much more dangerous opponent at this stage of the season.

"I think Rafa is always a very clear favorite on any clay court in the world, and it doesn't change," Djokovic said. "He's still there. I mean (it) obviously depends how he's feeling physically. I have seen him (training) here, he's been here a few days. Seems like he's fine."

Djokovic referred to Nadal's troublesome right knee, which flared up again last month and forced the second-ranked Nadal to pull out of his eagerly-awaited semifinal against Federer at Indian Wells.

That was on hard courts, however, and clay is kinder to the 32-year-old Nadal's battered knees.

Nadal has won Monte Carlo 11 times, also a record. His 46-match winning streak in Monte Carlo — broken by Djokovic in the 2013 final — is the most consecutive wins at a tournament by any man or woman.

Both players have byes to the second round here, and are due to play Tuesday or Wednesday.

Nadal faces either countryman Roberto Bautista Agut or John Millman of Australia, having not lost to them. Djokovic's opponent is Taro Daniel of Japan or Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber, who has lost eight of 10 matches against Djokovic but beat him at Indian Wells.

After winning the Australian Open, Djokovic had a blip few saw coming when he failed to reach the quarterfinals at both Indian Wells and the Miami Open.

He has already shrugged off those losses, or at least slotted them into perspective.

"I was disappointed, because I thought I could go far. But at the same time I'll try to look on the positive side," the 31-year-old Djokovic said. "I've had great form the past 12 months. That can serve only as an incentive."

In opening first-round play Sunday, there were wins for three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland, ninth-seeded Borna Coric of Croatia, Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Argentine Guido Pella.

Wawrinka, the 2014 champion, advanced with a 7-5, 6-3 win against Lucas Pouille — who has lost all his matches since being crushed by Djokovic in the Australian Open semis.

Coric beat Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 in damp and overcast conditions on the French Riviera, with heavy rain interrupting play early in the afternoon.

Dimitrov won 7-5, 6-4 against Matteo Berrettini, while Pella beat Laslo Djere 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-4 and next plays seventh-seeded Marin Cilic.

———

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

© 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Odessa, TX

Current Conditions

Sunny
67°
Humidity: 46%
Winds: E at 19mph
Feels Like: 67°

Your Extended Forecast

Tomorrow

weather
High 81°/Low 61°
Plenty of sun. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 60s.

saturday

weather
High 91°/Low 62°
Sunshine. Highs in the low 90s and lows in the low 60s.

sunday

weather
High 92°/Low 62°
Partly cloudy. Highs in the low 90s and lows in the low 60s.
Online Features

Pet Central

pets

Having a pet is a lot of responsibility, and we’ll help by giving you lots of tips and tricks! More >>

Fitness

Fitness

Our fitness articles will help teach you how to work out with gym- and home-based exercises. More >>

Crosswords

Crosswords

Enjoy the crosswords challenge in our free daily puzzles, from the harder Sunday crossword to the quicker daily. More >>

Sudoku

Sudoku

Every Sudoku has a unique solution that can be reached logically. Enter numbers into the blank spaces so that each row, column and 3x3 box contains the numbers 1 to 9. More >>




  • ALL-ACCESS: Subscribe to our e-edition and premium website at myoaoa.com.
    You can read your daily newspaper without taking a walk to the driveway.
    Look back at yesterday's newspaper, or issues from months ago with our archive feature.
    Call circulation at 432-337-7670 to sign up today.