Wednesday, 26 June, 2019

Novak Djokovic says beating Rafael Nadal at French Open is 'ultimate challenge'

Roger Federer on clay Roger Federer will play on clay this spring after a two-year absence Credit AFP
Shannon Reynolds | 17 April, 2019, 11:35

They are the three most successful players in Grand Slam history: Federer has won a record 20 majors, Nadal 17 and Djokovic is catching them up with 15.

Nadal has won Monte Carlo 11 times, also a record.

Writing in the latest issue of Tennishead magazine, Serena Williams' coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, said he believes Djokovic has a mental edge over Nadal. His last visit to the Roland Garros stadium was in the year 2015 and since then Roger Federer did not step on the Parisien Terre Battue. "I live here. I've used it as a base for the past nearly 15 years", Djokovic said. "Sascha always and Novak is back on the top of his game and, I hope, me". He plans to play in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome, as usual, before defending his French Open title, and few would bet against him dominating once again. Should he win one of this year's three clay-court Masters 1000 events, where Nadal will also be present, the psychological boost could be crucial for Djokovic. He won French, he won all the big ones. "He's got a better title chance at tournaments other than Roland Garros, but he has won it in the past (2009)".

"He's been playing great tennis lately, winning two out of his last three events (Dubai and Miami with an Indian Wells final against Thiem)".

"If he gets pushed too far back against Novak on this court, Novak's drop shots are going to be a huge weapon here. But at the same time it is what it is and as I said I'll try to look on the positive side", Djokovic said. Definitely, for our sport, it's better that he plays. But I think, personally, people understood why he decided as well to skip the clay-court season past year and I also understand why he wants to play.

"Other than those two tournaments, the others I have played (in the past year) were at least, I think, semifinals or finals, most of the tournaments I played. That can serve only as an incentive so to say, or a confidence boost, prior to clay season".

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As Novak Djokovic begins his preparations for a fourth straight Grand Slam title, he likes to imagine beating Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.

Djokovic said beating Nadal in a French Open final would top the lot, but as the clay-court season begins in earnest this week, he knows doing it will be extremely hard. Rafa is always the clear favourite on any any court in the world. I have seen him (training) here, he's been here a few days.

"If he's physically fit he's definitely the number one guy on this surface, without a doubt".

"After him, it's quite open", Djokovic said of the contenders on clay.

Djokovic owns a 32-10 record in Monte-Carlo, so it's not been his very best tournament over the years.

"I've been through a hard year".

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