Rafael Nadal says playing Novak Djokovic is always a 'big challenge'

The 13-time Roland Garros champion is gearing up to face the Serbian World No.1 in the semifinal, saying, “we are living the sport for these moments”.

Rafael Nadal in action during a French Open match. (Image credit: Twitter)

Rafael Nadal might have lost a set against Diego Schwartzman but was largely untroubled in the quarterfinal victory in Paris on Wednesday. Next up for the 13-time champion is a semifinal clash against the World No.1 Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros on Friday. When asked about facing Djokovic, Nadal admitted, “It’s always a big challenge. [The] best thing is you know that you need to play your best tennis. It’s a match that you know what you have to do if you really want to have chances to succeed and to keep going on [in] the tournament.”

Nadal trails Djokovic 28-29 in their ATP head-to-head count. However, the Spaniard has not lost to the Serbian star on clay since May 2016 in Rome. Just last month, he defeated Djokovic for his 10th Internazionali BNL d’Italia crown. “That’s something that is good, because in some ways we are practising [and] we are living the sport for these moments… The negative thing [is that] it’s difficult because you play against one of the best players in the [sport’s] history,” he added.

Rafa not thinking about his numbers now

It is interesting to note that the Spaniard has a staggering 105-2 match record at the clay-court major since making his debut in 2005. This will not be an easy outing by any stretch of the imagination for Djokovic as he needs to be at his hundred percent throughout the match to have a chance of beating the Spanish superstar in the high-octane clash. But right now, Nadal is not interested in the numbers as his focus solely remains on the tough semifinal battle.

 “I am not the one to talk about myself,” said Nadal. “I can’t avoid that I have great numbers here [at] Roland Garros… [The fact] that commentators think about me that way is something that I am proud of. It’s an honour for me. Of course, the numbers are just amazing. But I can’t think about that now, honestly. Let’s talk about that when I finish my career.

“Now is a moment to be happy. I won an important match today against a tough opponent. I was able to find a way to play my best tennis in the moments that I really needed to. It’s a moment to enjoy today and [I will] try to start preparing for that semi-final in terms of recovery, in terms of practice [a] little bit tomorrow to confirm the good feelings [that I had] at the end of the match.”

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