In the semi-finals of Roland Garros 2006, two wild youngsters met. They were Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, playing their first encounter on the tour. Sixteen years later, Novak and Rafa stand at the record-breaking 59 duels, setting the Open-era record with plenty to beat in the future.
Born within a year, two great rivals have pushed each other to the limit in numerous thrilling encounters, their eyes on the greatest trophies and chasing Roger Federer. Nadal and Djokovic will end the current season with more Major titles than the Swiss for the first time, staying competitive at 36 and 35 and stealing notable titles from the young guns.
When asked about the main rival in his recent interviews, Novak said it’s still Rafa despite having better placed players ahead of him. Djokovic and Nadal haven’t had a perfect season in terms of their schedules and form, but they still grabbed three out of four Major titles to top the charts!
Novak Djokovic sees Rafael Nadal as his biggest rival.
Due to his vaccination status, Novak missed the Australian Open and the US Open on his favorite hard court. The Serb lost to Nadal in the Roland Garros quarter-finals and had his only chance at a Major crown this season at Wimbledon.
Djokovic again showed his grass court magic to claim his seventh All England Club title by defeating Nick Kyrgios in four sets in the title fight. On the other hand, Nadal returned to action after missing the second part of 2021 due to a foot injury.
The Spaniard got 2022 off to a perfect start, winning the first 20 matches and securing his second Australian Open title, the first in 13 years! Rafa broke a rib at Indian Wells and missed Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Returning informally in May, Nadal suffered heavy losses in Madrid and Rome and cast dark clouds over his chances at Roland Garros.
Despite persistent foot pain that required injections before each game, Rafa defeated Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Casper Ruud for his 14th Parisian crown. The Spaniard suffered an abdominal injury at Wimbledon that cost him a better result at two Majors, retiring in London and suffering the fourth-round defeat in New York.
Djokovic and Nadal met once in 2022 and the Spaniard defeated the Serb 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 in the quarter-finals of Roland Garros in four hours and 12 minutes. Rafa notched his 29th victory over Novak and stayed on the title course after an incredible fight.
Djokovic got off to a slow start and recovered from his game in the second set. The Spaniard dominated the third set and the Serb made sure he played better in the fourth. Novak missed set points behind the initial shot, losing serve and falling in the tie-break to lose the title and propel Rafa into the semis.