Novak Djokovic on facing Rafael Nadal: It's not like any other match

The Serbian World No.1 has set up a mouth-watering semifinal clash with the 13-time Roland Garros champion Nadal on Friday.

Novak Djokovic in a file photo. (Image: Twitter/ATP Tour)

Novak Djokovic had to dig deep to get the better of Matteo Berrettini in the French Open quarterfinals on Wednesday. After winning the first two sets in a routine manner, the Serbian lost the third in a tie-breaker before making the most of his years of experience to get past the Italian in the fourth set. The 6-3, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5 victory has set up a mouth-watering semifinal clash with 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal on Friday. It is to be noted that the Spaniard defeated the Serbian in the Paris final last year to lift his 13th French Open title.

“It’s not like any other match. Let’s face it, it’s the biggest challenge that you can have: playing on clay against Nadal, on this court on which he has had so much success in his career, in the final stages of a Grand Slam. It doesn’t get bigger than that,” Djokovic said. “Of course, each time we face each other, there’s that extra tension and expectations. [The] vibes are different walking on the court with him. But that’s why our rivalry has been historic, I think, for this sport. I’ve been privileged to play him so many times.

“[My] rivalries with him and Roger [Federer] have made me a stronger player, allowed me to understand how I need to improve my game to get to the level where they were when I started playing professional tennis. I’ll probably pick Rafa as the biggest rival I’ve ever had in my career. The anticipation for the match against him – any match, any surface, any occasion – is always different from any other.”


In their renowned ATP head-to-head clashes, Djokovic and Nadal have met a total of 57 times. Despite leading their series 29-28, the Serbian is 1-7 against the Spaniard at Roland Garros. “The quality and the level of tennis that I’ve been playing in the past three, four weeks on clay – [in] Rome, Belgrade and here – is giving me good sensations and feelings ahead of that match,” Djokovic said. “I’m confident. I believe I can win, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Let’s have a great battle.”

Djokovic fought hard to eliminate Berrettini in four sets and after clinching his victory, the Serbian let out a huge roar. “This match had it all: falls, a crowd, a break. It was a lot of intensity. I just felt under tension the entire time,” Djokovic said. “I felt like I missed some of the chances to end the match in the third set. I didn’t want to give him too many opportunities to dictate the match. That’s why it was just super, super stressful to constantly be under pressure on my service games because his service games were quite smooth with [his] big serve. The reaction in the end was just me liberating that tension that was building up for the entire match.”

He further opened up about the difficulty involved in playing against the Italian in the quarterfinals. “The crowd lifted him up. He was playing some really powerful tennis. Especially in the third and fourth, he served tremendously [hard] and precisely. It was just very difficult to read his serve and play someone like him,” Djokovic said. “He’s very talented. He can play well from the back of the court. He’s got a lethal forehand, drop shots… When he’s on, it’s tough to play him.”

Sportslumo Desk

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