Novak Djokovic opens up about Rafael Nadal ‘p*****g me off’, feeling intimidated and ‘calming the storm’

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic has provided a fascinating insight into his early years as a tennis player where he felt intimidated by his big rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer while he also opened up about his mental strength.

When Djokovic made his breakthrough at the top, Nadal and Federer had already established the Big Two and the Serbian initially found it difficult to break them down.

Nadal at one point had a 14-4 advantage in their head-to-head while Federer was 13-6 up during the early stages of their rivalry.

However, as Djokovic gained more experience he started to get closer not just in terms of the head-to-head results, but also many tennis records before he eventually surpassed them.

By the time Federer retired, Djokovic was 27-23 in the H2H while is currently 30-29 against Nadal.

During an interview with Jon Wertheim on 60 Minutes on CBS News, reigning world No 1 Djokovic revealed how he was unnerved by Nadal early in his career.

“I’m playing Nadal in Roland Garros, and I have his locker next to my locker, right? So, we are so close,” he explained.

“And we’re trying to give each other space. But then the locker room is also not that big. And, the way you jump around like Nadal does before we go out on the court.

“In the locker room, he’s doing sprints next to you. I can even hear the music he’s listening to, you know, in his headphones. So, you know, it’s p*****g me off.”

He added: “Early in my career, I didn’t realise how all that’s part of the scenario, right? So I was getting intimidated by that.

“But it’s also motivating me to do stuff myself and to show that I’m ready, you know? I’m ready for a battle, for a war.”

READ MORE: Novak Djokovic makes honest admission about his relationship with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

One of the key features of Djokovic over the years has been his mental strength and it has helped him to come back from dead to win big titles.

When Wertheim asked him about the “great gift”, he replied: “I would have to correct you. I’d have to correct you… It’s not a gift. It’s something that comes with work.”

He continued: “In the moments when you’re under tension I might appear locked in but, trust me, there’s a storm inside.

“The biggest battle is always within. You have your doubts and fears. I feel it every single match. I don’t like this kind of mindset that I see a lot in sports. ‘Just think positive thoughts. Be optimistic. There’s no room for failure. There’s no room for doubts & stuff like this.’

“It’s impossible. You are a human being. The difference between the guys who are able to be the biggest champions and the ones that are struggling to get to the highest level is the ability to not stay in those emotions for too long.

“For me, it’s really relatively short. As soon as I experience it, I acknowledge it. I maybe burst or scream on the court. But I’m able to bounce back and reset.”

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