Novak Djokovic: Nadal the greatest rival that I ever had

Novak Djokovic has admitted that ‘it is becoming more challenging’ to motivate himself for tournaments, with the world No.1 reminiscing on his rivalry with Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic moved onto the third round of Roland Garros yesterday, after the defending champion beat Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4 6-1 6-2.

In his post-match press conference, Djokovic was asked about his commitment to the sport at 37-years-old, to which he gave a very honest response.

“It is becoming a little bit more challenging for me to push myself every single tournament to be really at the top,” revealed Djokovic. “I did struggle with motivation on a constant basis to always have that motivation I’ve had for more than 20 years of professional tennis.

“I know the moment is going to arrive sooner or later when I’m just going to, you know, have off weeks, where I’m struggling to push myself or deliver what needs to be delivered.”

The 24-time major winner added, “My commitment to practice hasn’t gone down. I’m focused pretty much solely on Grand Slams and Olympics this year, and playing for my country.”

Djokovic has had a relatively slow start to the season, having not reached a final so far and Roland Garros is only his seventh tournament of the year.

The Serbian was then asked about his rivalry with Rafael Nadal, after the Spaniard played what could potentially be the final match of his career at Roland Garros on Monday.

“He has been the greatest rival that I ever had,” claimed Djokovic. “Matches against him on clay have frustrated me so much in my career, but they also made me a better player, made me understand what it takes to try to surpass him; try to win at least once or twice at Roland-Garros.

“It’s the highest mountain to climb for me to win Roland-Garros, particularly because of Nadal, because I always have to win against him in order to get to the title. We had some really fantastic matches here.”

Djokovic will now move onto his third round match against 30th seed Lorenzo Musetti, which will take place tomorrow in Paris.

Inside the baseline…

It definitely seemed like a more convincing performance from Novak Djokovic, who has not looked himself in the first half of the 2024 season. That being said there is still a long way to go in the tournament, with Lorenzo Musetti a very difficult challenge on any clay court. Djokovic is right when speaking about Rafael Nadal, as people may argue that they prevented each other from winning more titles, but they also helped each other get better.

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.