It's a monumental task. For others, it would be the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest or competing in the Ironman Championships in Hawaii. That's the size of the challenge that awaits Novak Djokovic on Sunday against Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.
On one hand, it's too bad that we didn't have these two face off here a year ago, when Djokovic was dominating tennis (and Nadal). They faced each other six times then, and Djokovic won every time. That included twice on clay at Madrid and Rome right before Roland Garros. However, likely due to the pressure and exhaustion that a 41-match winning streak brings, Djokovic was eliminated in the semi-finals by Roger Federer before he could face Nadal.
It was probably a gift for Nadal that he didn't have to face Djokovic at that time because it's quite possible that Djokovic would have beaten him then. For Nadal, Roland Garros is his kingdom. No one has dominated a specific Grand Slam tournament the way that Nadal has at the French Open for as long as he has. Bjorn Borg here back in the 1970's is the only other one that comes close, but Nadal is looking to surpass Borg's title count by winning his seventh title here on Sunday. Aside from this historic accomplishment, Nadal's main motivation for winning will be in stopping the man who has become his personal kryptonite from achieving his own historic milestones.
If Djokovic were to win on Sunday, he would be the first man to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time since the legendary Rod Laver did it in 1969. That's right. Nadal hasn't done it (he tends to do poorly at the Australian Open at the beginning of the season), and Roger Federer never did it (largely because he could never grab a French Open title from Nadal) in all his years of dominance.
For Djokovic to accomplish this at a time when Nadal is still at his peak would be not only historic, but an embarassment for Nadal. I was convinced a few years ago that Nadal was going to one day surpass Federer to become the greatest player of all time (and surpass his record of 16 Grand Slam titles; Nadal has 10 right now). Now Djokovic is the one man who could stop him from catching and surpassing Federer.
I actually firmly believe that Djokovic can beat Nadal on Sunday. For all the stress that his five-set match with Jo-Wilifried Tsonga caused him, I felt that it was an excellent wake up call for Djokovic. He certainly seemed to come into his semi-final match with the laser-like focus he had in 2011. With so much history on the line, I expect him to find that form that was so successful against Nadal in 2011. It will be up to Nadal to see if he can elevate his game even further and vanquish his toughest rival.
Julie is a featured tennis contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network. She is on the edge of her seat waiting for what will hopefully be another epic Grand Slam final between these two amazing players.