Novak Djokovic reveals what he learned most from ‘intimidating’ Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic has outlined the most important lesson he has learned from his great rival Rafael Nadal, highlighting the Spaniard’s “incredible tenacity and combativeness.”
The Serbian declared that Nadal’s “level of tenacity intimidates you” and compared facing the Mallorcan on court to “entering a bullfight.”
Djokovic and Nadal form what is arguably one of sport’s greatest rivalries, having faced off a remarkable 59 times – a record in men’s tennis. The Serbian holds a 30-29 lead – with their clashes to date having taken place over a 16-year period from 2006 to 2022.
The legendary duo are also the two players with the most men’s Grand Slam titles in history. Djokovic won a record-extending 24th major at the 2023 US Open earlier this month, while Nadal won his 22nd and most recent Slam at the 2022 French Open.
Nadal has not competed since suffering a hip injury in his second round loss to Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open in January. The 37-year-old underwent surgery on the issue in June, having initially expected to be out for only six to eight weeks.
In a interview with tennis great John McEnroe for ESPN, Djokovic revealed the biggest thing he has gained from his greatest rival.
“What I learned the most from Rafael Nadal was this spirit of: ‘Never die, never give up.’ This is arguably the most courage we have seen from a player,” said the 36-year-old.
“He shows incredible tenacity and combativeness on the field and in the locker room. This level of tenacity intimidates you. That’s what you feel when you play against him. It’s like you’re entering a bullfight.”
The world No 1 spoke about the absence of Nadal at this year’s French Open, with the 14-time champion forced to miss the event for the first time since 2004 due to injury.
“Honestly, I don’t miss him being in the draw. I don’t like seeing him in the draw of Roland Garros (laughs),” Djokovic said in a press conference.
“I have had not so much success against him in our head-to-head record in Roland Garros. I’ve managed to beat him twice, but I had to leave my heart and my guts out on the court to achieve that.
“A lot of people retired him already 10 years ago but he kept going, which is something I respect and admire. I know how hard it is to maintain that level and keep going even after having a tough injury.
“I have to say that he’s my biggest rival. When he announced that he’s going to have his last season of [his] career, I felt part of me is leaving with him too. I feel that he was one of the most impactful people that I have ever had in my career, the growth of my career and me as a player.
“Definitely a great motivational factor for me to keep playing and keep competing and keep pushing each other – who’s going achieve more, who’s going to do better.”
Emma Raducanu finally confirms when she will make her comeback in 2024
The 21-year-old has not played a match since in April, but she will be back in action next month.
Entry list confirmed for Rafael Nadal’s comeback tournament and he could face an old foe
Rafael Nadal will not be seeded for the event in Brisbane as his ranking has collapsed due to his inactivity over the last year.
Leading coach gives a clinical verdict on the Carlos Alcaraz vs Jannik Sinner debate
Alcaraz may be keen to avoid a meeting with Sinner at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic vs Carlos Alcaraz in Saudi Arabia – when it is, what can we expect, how much are they getting paid?
Djokovic and Alcaraz will be joined in Saudi Arabia by WTA Tour stars Aryna Sabalenka and Ons Jabeur for exhibition matches.
Rafael Nadal’s alarming update on his comeback plans puts perspective on his ambitions
Nadal has admitted his comeback plans were in the balance for much of the last six months.
The 5 players to win ATP titles without losing a set in 2023: Carlos Alcaraz the only one to do it twice
Here is a look at the six times a player won an ATP title without dropping a set in 2023.
Cameron Norrie exclusive on Novak Djokovic’s improvement, a pizza problem and his worst moment on court
Cameron Norrie gives Tennis365 an insight into his diet, his motivations and more…
Seven tennis stars among top 10 highest-paid female athletes in 2023: Emma Raducanu 4th
Tennis players once again dominate the list of highest-paid female athletes.
Novak Djokovic’s 2023 season labelled ‘one of the most amazing displays of age defiance in sports history’
Novak Djokovic’s remarkable 2023 season has been reviewed by a tennis commentator.
Novak Djokovic’s 2024 tennis schedule: Where will the tennis great kick off his season?
Which tournaments are likely to feature on Novak Djokovic’s 2024 tennis schedule?