The great rivalry: Djokovic and Nadal face off …again

novak djokovic

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN, January 26 — There have been so many matches between Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal. They have played each other 52 times, over the past 13 years. Without a doubt, there have been some great ones, some fascinating ones, and on occasion, odd ones.

Over the past 30 years, there have been a number of terrific matches, long matches, but none of them have confronted each other deep in the tournaments.

Some have played against Novak or Rafa before, but you had to go deep, in the semis or the finals, because that is where they were. Roger Federer has, and also Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka did, too — the Slam winners. But the very good ones — like Juan Martin del Potro and Mario Cilic — have made it once in a while, but not a huge amount.

Djokovic and Federer have played each other 47 times, with Novak has  25 wins and 22 losses. That is a high results, too. Nadal owns 23 wins against Federer, and the Swiss has 15 victories. One more: Djokovic has 25 wins over Murray, and 11 losses.

Obviously,  Djokovic is way up there, beating the best rivalries, but while he has won 14 majors, he still  has to tie, or pass them, eventually, with the 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer, and the 17-major winner Nadal.  

Djokovic lost plenty of matches to Nadal, but he is clearly better when on the hardcourt. The last time that the Spaniard defeated Djokovic on a hardcourt was 2013, in the US Open final. That is a long time ago now.  

If Nadal can take him out on Sunday night, then he will have to push himself.  A lot. They know each other up and down,  but in order to shove him back, he has to swing hard and physical.  He has to, because as Djokovic said, he has to jump on him early.

“I think my 1-2 punches that worked pretty well throughout this tournament. The good thing is I’m feeling really comfortable on the court hitting the ball,” Djokovic said. “I can get into the court, I can step back, I can defend. I’m comfortable doing whatever it takes. I’m going to get out there and obviously try to dictate the play. But it’s easier said than done against Nadal. Just depends how we both start. Throughout the match, I guess you’re going to have to be present and get a feel of how it evolves. Sometimes it will require to be a little bit more patience with more construction of the point, sometimes maybe to attack more. He has improved his serve. I see he has a slightly different service motion that has worked very well. With everything he possesses, all the qualities in his game, adding to that also a lot of free points on the serve makes him much tougher to play against. That’s why he managed to have a lot of success with the shorter points, because of the serve. He’s backing his first shot up with that great serve, saving energy, and then he can go for more in the return game.”

Djokovic agreed that over the years, they adjust it, and added to it. There can be bad days, but for both of them, they are amazing players. That’s why they are the best right now.

“I think it adds more maybe pressure on [Nadal’s] serve and my serve, as well, because we return well. We’ve been playing well. Yeah, it’s going to be interesting.  We can get a sense of what we are about to experience. …When you go full out emotionally, physically, mentally, you might as well enjoy it.”

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