Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have met 59 times since 2006. Djokovic leads the all-time head-to-head 30-29, but he mostly dominates Nadal on every other surface that is not clay. Nadal still gives the Serb issues on clay, however. Nadal is 20-8 on clay against Djokovic, while the Serb is 22-9 against the Spaniard on all other surfaces.
Nadal, though, has not played since early January 2023 and then he suffered a hip injury that eventually required surgery. Some speculated that maybe Nadal would never play professional tennis again, but he has worked himself back into decent form and he announced on Friday that he will return for the Brisbane International in January. While some excellent rivalries have started to grow in 2023, such as Djokovic against Carlos Alcaraz, tennis misses the greatness of Nadal versus Djokovic.
In a recent interview with Marca, the Serb admitted that he would not like to face Nadal at the French Open, however. The reason is that Nadal would very much be the crowd favorite in likely his last appearance in the Grand Slam he has won 14 times. Djokovic would have to overcome the player, the crowd, and, well…destiny. The clay of the French Open belongs to Nadal more than any other player.
Novak Djokovic doesn’t want to face Rafael Nadal at the 2024 French Open
The two players have faced off many times at Roland Garros, and three of those times have come since 2020. Before 2020, the last time the two met at the French Open was 2015. In 2020, Nadal won in straight sets, in 2021, Djokovic won in four, and then Nadal won in four in 2022. Djokovic has no doubt he could compete with Nadal at Roland Garros, but as 2024 could be Nadal’s final year on the ATP tour, the major will come with heightened importance for the Spaniard.
During the interview with Marca, Nole was also asked about why he cannot be friends with either Nadal or Roger Federer. The top-ranked ATP player said, “It’s true that we can’t be friends because with friends you talk about everything, the good, the bad, your secrets. With your rivals I don’t think you feel very comfortable revealing all that…(though) I have incredible respect for them…”
That is an interesting perspective, of course, but unlike Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev who basically grew up together, the only bond Djokovic has with Federer and Nadal is tennis and they were not aging at the exact same time. While we might want Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic to be great friends, each of those players was also trying to take the others’ money by winning tournaments.