Rafael Nadal explains the difference between beating Roger Federer to Novak Djokovic

Just few years ago the world of tennis evolved by the intensity of the Big Three. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were nothing less than attention magnets as they kept the competitive standards high for more than two decades. They each broke records and extended their records beyond the reach of many youngsters in the game.

However, while it became frequent to see the big three compete against each other in major tournaments and ATP Tours, Rafael Nadal had his own plan written in his book about how to defeat them.

Rafael Nadal compares beating Roger Federer to Novak Djokovic

Rafael Nadal, who is regarded as one of the most prolific tennis players of all time earned himself 22 Grand Slam titles as well as 36 ATP 100 Masters. Nadal captured all the important landmarks he learned in his professional journey in RAFA: MY STORY, co-written with John Carlin in 2012.

In it, he mentions, “With Federer, the rule is always to keep patiently plugging away, knowing you’ll force him sooner or later to make mistakes.”

While the Spaniard seemed to feel quite confident about overcoming Swiss Roger Federer, he also penned down the approach of facing Djokovic. He wrote, “With Djokovic, there is no clear tactical plan. It is simply a question of playing at your very best, with maximum intensity and aggression, seeking to retain control of the point, because the moment you let him get the upper hand, he is unstoppable.”

Rafael Nadal, who is acknowledged as the King of Clay laid down his obvious weakness and superior return of serve in his book. While agreeing to the notion that Djokovic is more difficult opponent than Federer, he had high praise of the Swiss, who he mentioned as his greatest rival.

Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic head-to-head record

The rivalry between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic is regarded as one of the most prolific in the open era and one of the most remarkable in tennis history. The two stars have faced each other in the court 59 times, more than any other player, however, Novak Djokovic leads their head-to-head with 30 win and 29 losses.

The Serbian star tops in the most win in a final: 15 to 13 but Rafael Nadal has won the most of their 18 Grand Slam meetings triumphing 11 times, losing seven times. The last time the two met, Rafael Nadal defeated Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) in the quarterfinals of the 2022 French Open.

Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic
via Getty

Out of these 59 matches, 27 were played on hard courts, 28 on clay, and four on grass. The two champions form the only male pair in Open Era history to have met in four consecutive major finals, from Wimbledon 2011 to Roland Garros 2012. 

The first time these two met was in the 2006 French Open quarterfinals where Djokovic was forced to retire in the third set due to injury, with Nadal leading the two sets. 

From 2011 to 2016, Djokovic prevailed, with a 19-7 record. To date, Novak Djokovic remains the only player who most challenged Rafael Nadal on clay court, having beaten him eight times for 19 losses. Their iconic rivalry continues to structure the course of modern tennis even today.

Victor Okechukwu

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