The difficult conditions at Roland Garros will favor Novak Djokovic if he faces Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam final this weekend. Djokovic came from a set and overcame physical difficulties to defeat Pablo Carreno Busta and reserve his place in the semi-final, where he will face Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Neither Nadal nor Roger Federer, out for the rest of 2020 due to injury, were in New York and instead Dominic Thiem won his first-ever Slam after Djokovic was eliminated.
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But at Roland Garros, Djokovic is expected to find a way to pass clay-court specialist Nadal – who will face Diego Schwartzman in the other semi-final.
Nadal has won 12 of his 18 slams in Paris and has been victorious in the past three years since Djokovic first won the French Open against Andy Murray in 2016.
Djokovic has faced the Spaniard 55 times, winning 29 times against Nadal’s 26 triumphs, but only won one of his seven games in this tournament.
Still, seven-time Grand Slam winner McEnroe, who has never been a finalist on red soil in France, believes the grueling cold temperatures favor Djokovic if the two face off in the final.
“Obviously he was thinking a little bit about the US Open for me because his opponent was the same guy when he was retired, it was kind of in his head,” McEnroe told Eurosport.
“We talked throughout the tournament about the weather there, so that’s a problem. You can see it seemed to bother him, arm, neck.
“The other part is the pressure. He’s trying to grab Rafa and Roger, so he’s obviously put a lot of pressure on himself. For me, the outcome has never been in doubt unless it stops playing.
“We saw this shenanigans a bit before Novak, there was a period of time for a year and a half or two years where he kind of went off the rails and had some problems mentally and physically.
“But now when I see him I think he can overcome it like he did today. These conditions are difficult and they play the best of five sets.
“There’s no two ways to do it, you can’t say it won’t happen.
“The most important thing for me is not that he had a stiff neck but that he got away with it, he is going for a Slam and if he is going to play Rafa in the final, which most people think it’s going to happen, these conditions are absolutely perfect. for him to play Rafa. ”
Speaking after his quarter-final victory over Italian teenager Jannik Sinner, Nadal took note of the chill with his victory only ending late at night.
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“Of course, it’s not an ideal finish, a game at 1:30 in the morning,” he said. “But the problem is time. It’s too cold to play. Honestly, it’s very, very cold to play tennis.
“I know football players play in these conditions, but it’s a little different. They move all the time.
“We stop, we come back, we stop on the changes. I think it’s a little dangerous for the body’s game with these very heavy conditions. ”
“I really don’t know why they put five games on the [Court Philippe] Chatrier today. It was a risk. ”
Nadal’s 7-6, 6-4 and 6-1 triumph means the 34-year-old is just two games away from Federer’s 20 slam event.
And Carlos Moya from Nadal added: “Novak is playing at a very good level. He played a very difficult game against Karen Khachanov and he solved it very well.
“He’s a great player and I think he’s the player who benefits the most from all these conditions at this Roland Garros.
“We are focusing on our work for the semi-finals and if the time comes to face Djokovic it means Rafa is in the final and Djokovic has won both matches. ”
From Nadal’s semi-final against Schwartzman, Moya continued: “It will be a very difficult duel as we saw in Rome.
“Diego’s game against Thiem yesterday was amazing and I think even Diego could have won more easily. It is true that he could also lose the game. A totally dramatic and very moving match.
“The players have two days off to recover, but I always say that a Grand Slam is like a marathon. The less you are in competition, the better it is to face the final sprint.
“Even so Diego is an amazing player and we don’t think the physical factor is going to influence too much. “