Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic - Roland Garros 2022

Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros ‘one of the biggest challenges’ claims Novak Djokovic

Rafael Nadal has been labelled as ‘an incredible athlete’ by rival Novak Djokovic, who has described the different threat that the Spaniard brings at Roland Garros.

Nadal is currently continuing his injury comeback at the Italian Open, where he is a record 10-time champion.

The Mallorcan has been very open about the fact that it is likely to be his final appearances at these events, including the upcoming Roland Garros.

In his 18 appearances at the tournament, Nadal has won the Roland Garros title a record 14 times, and Djokovic has spoken about what it is like to play him in Paris.

“It’s probably one of the biggest challenges you can have on the tennis tour, playing Rafa at Roland Garros,”claimed Djokovic. “We know his record there and I’ve played him probably more than any other player has played him on that court.”

Djokovic continued, “The court is bigger, there’s more space, which affects visually the play a lot and the feeling of the player on the court and he likes to stand quite far back to return. So you have some times when he’s really in the zone and in the groove and not making many errors, you feel like he’s impenetrable, he’s like a wall. It’s really a paramount challenge to play him at Roland-Garros, he’s an incredible athlete.

“The tenacity and intensity he brings on the court, particularly there, is something that was very rarely seen in the history of the sport. So I’m sure it’s going to be a very emotional tournament for him, as it was in Madrid and here, but there in particular because of all the records he has.”

Djokovic is also competing at the Italian Open, in the first tournament that has featured both himself and Nadal since the 2023 Australian Open.

Despite electing to skip the Madrid Open, the world No.1 appears to believe that he is ‘on a good route to peak at Roland Garros’, “I had plenty of time to rest and train. I had a good training block and I arrived here two days ago to get a hit on centre court.

“With top players it’s obviously different when you train with them, playing practice sets, seeing where your game is at and working your way towards fine form for your first match.”

The 24-time major winner added, “I think I’m on a good route to peak at Roland Garros in Paris. Hopefully here in Rome I can play better than I did in Monte-Carlo and that’s the wish, obviously, it’s always to go far. But let’s see.”

Djokovic will begin his Italian Open campaign later today, when he takes on lucky loser Corentin Moutet.

Inside the baseline…

It definitely seems as though the respect between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic is growing as their respective careers reach the latter stages. Although a lot of the conversation is currently surrounding the Spaniard for obvious reasons, it will also be interesting to see how Djokovic fares considering it has not been the best start to the season in relative terms for the world No.1, who is still without a title so far in 2024.

READ NEXT: Andy Murray ‘the only one at the same level’ as the big three claims Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic

Nadal and Djokovic have had one of the biggest rivalries in tennis history, and we at Tennishead wanted to lookback on their overall head-to-head compared to their numerous meetings on the dirt:

Nadal vs Djokovic Overall Head-to-head: 29-30

Nadal vs Djokovic on Clay: 20-8

Nadal vs Djokovic at Roland Garros: 8-2

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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.