Novak Djokovic divulges Rafael Nadal hope as he reacts to news of rival’s comeback

Pre-match Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal

Novak Djokovic has revealed he hopes to play “at least one more match” against his great rival Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard confirmed he will return to the sport.

The Serbian described Nadal as “a big warrior” and expressed his admiration for his spirit and refusal to give up, while saying it is “amazing news” for tennis that he will return.

Earlier this week, Nadal disclosed he had made significant progress in his training and that he would be returning to the sport.

“Until now, I didn’t know if I would ever play tennis again and now I think so. What has changed from a few weeks ago to now is that now I know that I am going to play tennis again,” said the Mallorcan.

“I didn’t know it before, but now, honestly, I know it because the evolution is positive. Big steps have been taken lately. I’m not yet ready to say where. When I know, I will be the first to say it. It’s a good period of my life. It’s a step forward, without a doubt, and it means a lot.”

Nadal has not played since suffering a hip injury in his second round loss to Mackenzie McDonald at the 2023 Australian Open in January. The 22-time Grand Slam champion underwent surgery on the issue in June, having initially expected to be out for only six to eight weeks.

The 37-year-old was forced to postpone his planned comeback during the clay-court season and missed the French Open for the first time since 2004. The former world No 1 revealed in a press conference announcing his withdrawal from Roland Garros that 2024 would likely be his final season on the tour.

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Speaking after his three-set win over Hubert Hurkacz in third round-robin match at the 2023 ATP Finals on Thursday, Djokovic was asked about the prospect of facing his greatest rival again.

“I think it would be nice for the sport to have at least one more match between Nadal and me. That’s the biggest rivalry in terms of the amount of matches played that this sport ever had. Hopefully that can happen,” said the Serbian.

“He’s a big warrior. He’s somebody that really never gives up. With all the injuries that he had, keeps going. That’s definitely something that you have to respect and admire about him and his spirit. For the world of tennis, no doubt that it’s amazing news that he’ll be back.”

Nadal was also positive he could be competitive in his comeback, but ruled out the possibility of chasing down Djokovic’s record tally of 24 Grand Slam titles.

“I know it will be difficult to return to a very high level of tennis, but if I did not have the hope of being competitive again, I would not have done the work I did these months,” the Spaniard added.

“The effort that must be made after a very long career, which the years weigh on. I’m not going to win more Grand Slams than Novak Djokovic, but I’m going to give myself the opportunity to have fun again.”

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