Rafael Nadal Novak Djokovic ATP

Novak Djokovic recalls time Rafael Nadal ‘p***ed him off’

Novak Djokovic has admitted that rival Rafael Nadal used to ‘p*** him off’ due to his intensity behind the scenes.

Djokovic and Nadal have the biggest rivalry in tennis with them playing 59 matches so far. Djokovic has shaded it so far with 30 wins and given Nadal’s injury problems there may not be another match between the two.

Whatever the future holds, though, their rivalry is stuff of legend – in part due to their very different characters. Nadal is physically intense and fidgety while Djokovic is more cerebral.

That has resulted in some of the best matches tennis has ever seen, but it was also once the source of the Spaniard really getting on Djokovic’s nerves behind the scenes.

Speaking to 60 Minutes, Djokovic recalled: “I’m playing Nadal in Roland Garros, and I have his locker next to my locker, right?

“So, we are so close. And we’re tryin’ to give each other space. But then the locker room is also not that big.

“And, the way you jump around like Nadal does before we go out on the court. In the locker room, he’s doing sprints next to you. I can even hear the music he’s listening to, you know, in his headphones. So, you know, it’s pissing me off,” Djokovic added.

Djokovic has become the true master of the big occasion now with his mental preparation and sheer force of focus renowned throughout sport, not just tennis.

However, he admits that it took him a little time to figure out that the battle against his biggest rivals didn’t just start when they stepped onto the court.

“Early in my career, I didn’t realize how all that’s part of the scenario,” he said. “So, I was getting intimidated by that.

“But it’s also motivating me to do stuff myself and to show that I’m ready, you know? I’m ready for a battle, for a war.”

Novak Djokovic: ‘Rafael Nadal a warrior’

Djokovic and Nadal have had a fierce rivalry, but it is also a very respectful one. And, as with almost all great sporing rivalries, as it comes to an end players get more reflective.

It’s the exact same with Djokovic and Nadal, even if they admit there is no real friendship there behind everything.

“I think it would be nice for the sport to have at least one more match between Nadal and me,” Djokovic said after his ATP Finals win over Hubert Hurkacz.

“That’s the biggest rivalry in terms of the amount of matches played that this sport ever had. Hopefully that can happen. He’s a big warrior.

“He’s somebody that really never gives up. With all the injuries that he had, keeps going. That’s definitely something that you have to respect and admire about him and his spirit.

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Michael Graham, Editor, has been a professional sports journalist for his whole career and is especially passionate about tennis. He's been the Editor of for over 5 years and loves watching live tennis by visiting as many tournaments as possible. Michael specialises in writing in-depth features about the ATP & WTA tours.