Anytime #1 and #2 meet to decide a big tournament things are special. This one has the potential to be even bigger than special. Novak Djokovic is #2 in the world and has beaten #1 Nadal 3 consecutive times winning 6 consecutive sets. A win on clay over Nadal would propel Djokovic into Paris with a head of steam. Rafa on the other hand won Madrid last week and could quell any notions of slipping form with a win over Nole.
In the semifinal round, neither man faced a match similar to what this final is likely to bring. Milos Raonic does not play like Rafa. Dimitrov lacks Nole’s focus and return game. Rafa seems to be playing his best clay court tennis of the season after dropping the first set to Andy Murray in a Rome quarterfinal. Novak who skipped Madrid to rest his wrist has fewer reps on clay to evaluate. Still, one has to think both feel good about their form. Nole dropped sets to Ferrer and Raonic, but since he missed Madrid some longer matches may actually help him. Nadal won Madrid after trailing Nishikori. He fended off tougher than expected challenges from Gilles Simon and Mikhail Youzhny. After Murray raced through the first set vs. Rafa, the old Rafa seems to have re-emerged. A win should offer some small mental edge heading into Paris if a rematch is to play out over 3 out of 5 sets.
My Prediction: I think if Nole takes care of his serve, his return game gives him a comparative advantage. If Nole is willing to pay the price physically, the match-up is to his favor. I think Novak knocks off Nadal 6-4, 6-4 and sets up an interesting lead into Roland Garros.