The scores look very similar - both lost the first set, both dealt a 6-1 breadstick to their opponents... The similarities don't end there. Take a look at the interviews given by Rafa and Novak after the matches.
I practically had a tear in my eye after watching that second interview. The level of respect those guys have for each other is incredible, and I think they sincerely mean everything they say about each other. Rafa probably does feel a bit of an underdog, after losing to Djokovic twice in their last Masters finals meetings. And of course, when playing against Nadal on clay - it's clear who the favourite is, even if your name is Novak.
But putting personal preferences aside, I'm seriously amazed by Rafa's humility. He's unbeatable on clay - just look at the last season, where he swept the titles in Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, and Roland Garros. And he started the same way this year, with the MC and Barcelona (which he didn't play in 2010) titles already under his belt. And still, when asked directly, he mantains that Novak is the favorite to win the match, being unbeaten this year.
(On a related note, Rafa's english is so good right now.)
Some stats, going into the finals:
Streaks: Rafa has 37 successive wins on clay, Nole's got 31 in wins 2011 (33 overall at the moment). One of those streaks ends tomorrow.
Head to head: Rafa leads 16-9, and 9-0 on clay. One of those 9s will become a 10 tomorrow.
Their last meeting in Madrid (SF, 2009), lasted 243 minutes (that's 4+ hours), Nole winning 125 points, and Rafa - 120 points and the whole match.
So what will tomorrow bring?
The answer is one of the weirdest trophies imaginable.
(Player photos by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)