PARIS: The reputations of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray as the fittest men in tennis will be rigorously tested when they slug it out on Sunday for the French Open, at the end of a tournament in which endurance has been a prime asset.
With both men hitting peak form in emphatic semi-final wins, mental strength looks likely to decide a final given added spice by an array of historic landmarks that will fall by the wayside irrespective of who wins.
Over two weeks of often attritional tennis invariably played in damp, cold conditions and with heavy balls, Murray — bidding to become the first British man to win in Paris since 1935 — has put his body through close to 18 hours on court over 24 sets.
Djokovic, also seeking his first title in Paris to become the first man in almost 50 years to hold all four Majors at once, has played five hours and five sets fewer.
But the rain delays that have ravaged the tournament meant the Serbian played four days in succession up to Friday and denied him the usual rest days associated with Grand Slams. “When I get on the court with (Murray) it’s going to be a very physical battle,” Djokovic said after Friday’s three-set demolition of Austrian tyro Dominic Thiem. “That’s why the day off (on Saturday) will definitely serve me well.”
If the pressure mounts on Sunday, Djokovic may however want to resist reflecting on his three previous defeats in French Open finals, including last year’s four-set reverse against Stan Wawrinka -- a match the world number one was expected to win.
No player in the professional era has ever lost more finals at any one of the four grand slams and gone on to win that event.
And at 29, time is ticking for both of them.
First Published: Jun 05, 2016 08:58 IST