'I was getting intimidated. I didn't realise then...': Djokovic recalls how Nadal's locker-room routine left him vexed
The prolific rivalry between Djokovic and Nadal comprising 59 meetings, including at all four majors, goes back as far as 2006
No two players have faced each other more number of times in ATP singles history as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. The prolific rivalry comprising 59 meetings, including at all four majors, goes back as far as 2006. On Sunday, Djokovic recalled one of his matches against Nadal at Stade Roland Garros in French Open, where the Spaniard's pre-match routine had "intimidated" him and left him vexed.
Facing Nadal at French Open still remains the toughest task in men's singles tennis, with Djokovic the only ever player to have beaten him on Parisian clay twice in his career. In fact, it was at French Open where their rivalry had begun 17 years back, with the defending champions Rafa up against the Serb in the quarterfinal round. Nadal had eventually prevailed after Djokovic retired in the third set with an elbow injury.
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Although Djokovic did not specify which of their 10 French Open meetings he referred to in his chat with Jon Wertheim on 60 Minutes, the 36-year-old recalled the impact of Nadal's pre-match locker-room routine on opponents, which in the early days had annoyed him.
"I am 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," Djokovic said.
"Early in my career, I didn't realise all that was part of the scenario, right? 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," the Serb added.
Djokovic narrowly leads the head-to-head tie 30-29 and also holds the edge in all ATP finals, leading 15-13. However, Nadal stands ahead 11-7 at Grand Slams and 5-4 in major finals. The Spaniard also owns an overwhelming 8-2 lead in French Open meetings while managing two wins in their three encounters at the US Open. Djokovic meanwhile leads 2–0 at the Australian Open and 2–1 at Wimbledon.
Of their 59 meetings, 27 were on hardcourts where the world no. 1 leads 20-7 while Nadal leads 20-8 on clay. And in gras, both have two wins apiece in four meetings.