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Djokovic talks up historic Australian Open final against Nadal: 'He's my biggest rival in my career'

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 26 Jan 2019
  • Djokovic and Nadal meet for the 53rd time in Sunday's Australian Open final
  • Djokovic leads their head-to-head 27-25
  • It will be their 25th clash in a final
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal (Photos by Julian Finney/Getty Images and Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic has declared Rafael Nadal as the greatest rival in his glittering career ahead of their historic 2019 Australian Open final showdown on Sunday - along with revealing he’s been trying to usurp the Spaniard even before they take to court to battle each other for the grand prize.

In a rematch of arguably the most physically demanding tennis match of all time from the 2012 Australian Open final (which Djokovic won in five sets after six hours), the two modern-day legends of tennis square off for a record 53rd time on Sunday at Melbourne Park.

Djokovic, who narrowly leads their head-to-head 27-25, is undefeated in Australian Open finals with a flawless 6-0 record and is trying to become the first man to win seven singles titles in Melbourne, while Nadal is aiming to become just the third man behind Rod Laver and Roy Emerson to capture each of the four Grand Slam titles on at least two occasions.

Nadal has put together one of the most dominant Grand Slam runs of his career at this Australian Open, advancing to the final for the loss of just 48 games, which is his fewest when reaching the title match outside of Roland Garros. The Spaniard ruthlessly picked apart Stefanos Tsitsipas by a 6-2 6-4 6-0 scoreline in the first semi-final - and so impressive was the performance, that Djokovic said he went out in his semi-final against Lucas Pouille with the intention of losing fewer games.


The Serbian ultimately succeeded, sprinting past the Frenchman 6-0 6-2 6-2 in a spectacular performance in which he only committed five unforced errors.

“Yes. It was hard to do that, but somehow managed,” Djokovic said when asked if was looking to concede less games than Nadal.
“He has played impressively well throughout the entire tournament. He hasn't dropped a set. He looked as good as ever on the hard court throughout these few weeks. I haven't played bad myself last couple matches. I think that this finals comes at the right time for both of us. I'm sure we're going to have a blast on the court.”

Djokovic vs Nadal: The Rivalry

YearTournamentSurfaceRoundWinnerScore
2006Roland GarrosClayQFNadal6-4 6-4 RET
2007Indian Wells MastersHardFinalNadal6-2 7-5
2007Miami MastersHardQFDjokovic6-3 6-4
2007Rome MastersClayQFNadal6-2 6-3
2007Roland GarrosClaySFNadal7-5 6-4 6-2
2007WimbledonGrassSFNadal3-6 6-1 4-1 RET
2007Canada MastersHardSFDjokovic7-5 6-3
2007Tennis Masters Cup (China)HardRRNadal6-4 6-4
2008Indian Wells MastersHardSFDjokovic6-3 6-2
2008Hamburg MastersClaySFNadal7-5 2-6 6-2
2008Roland GarrosClaySFNadal6-4 6-2 7-6(3)
2008Queen's ClubGrassFinalNadal7-6(6) 7-5
2008Cincinnati MastersHardSFDjokovic6-1 7-5
2008Beijing OlympicsHardSFNadal6-4 1-6 6-4
2009Davis Cup WG R1ClayRRNadal6-4 6-4 6-1
2009Monte-Carlo MastersClayFinalNadal6-3 2-6 6-1
2009Rome MastersClayFinalNadal7-6(2) 6-2
2009Madrid MastersClaySFNadal3-6 7-6(5) 7-6(9)
2009Cincinnati MastersHardSFDjokovic6-1 6-4
2009Paris MastersHardSFDjokovic6-2 6-3
2009ATP World Tour FinalsHardRRDjokovic7-6(5) 6-3
2010US OpenHardFinalNadal6-4 5-7 6-4 6-2
2010ATP World Tour FinalsHardRRNadal7-5 6-2
2011Indian Wells MastersHardFinalDjokovic4-6 6-3 6-2
2011Miami MastersHardFinalDjokovic4-6 6-3 7-6(4)
2011Madrid MastersClayFinalDjokovic7-5 6-4
2011Rome MastersClayFinalDjokovic6-4 6-4
2011WimbledonGrassFinalDjokovic6-4 6-1 1-6 6-3
2011US OpenHardFinalDjokovic6-2 6-4 6-7(3) 6-1
2012Australian OpenHardFinalDjokovic5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7(5) 7-5
2012Monte-Carlo MastersClayFinalNadal6-3 6-1
2012Rome MastersClayFinalNadal7-5 6-3
2012Roland GarrosClayFinalNadal6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5
2013Monte-Carlo MastersClayFinalDjokovic6-2 7-6(1)
2013Roland GarrosClaySFNadal6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7(3) 9-7
2013Canada MastersHardSFNadal6-4 3-6 7-6(2)
2013US OpenHardFinalNadal6-2 3-6 6-4 6-1
2013BeijingHardFinalDjokovic6-3 6-4
2013ATP World Tour FinalsHardFinalDjokovic6-3 6-4
2014Miami MastersHardFinalDjokovic6-3 6-3
2014Rome MastersClayFinalDjokovic4-6 6-3 6-3
2014Roland GarrosClayFinalNadal3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4
2015Monte-Carlo MastersClaySFDjokovic6-3 6-3
2015Roland GarrosClayQFDjokovic7-5 6-3 6-1
2015BeijingHardFinalDjokovic6-2 6-2
2015ATP World Tour FinalsHardSFDjokovic6-3 6-3
2016DohaHardFinalDjokovic6-1 6-2
2016Indian Wells MastersHardSFDjokovic7-6(5) 6-2
2016Rome MastersClayQFDjokovic7-5 7-6(4)
2017Madrid MastersClaySFNadal6-2 6-4
2018Rome MastersClaySFNadal7-6(4) 6-3
2018WimbledonGrassSFDjokovic6-4 3-6 7-6(9) 3-6 10-8

Djokovic went on to label Nadal as his main rival on tour throughout his career. The pair have played each other in 24 finals throughout the course of their legendary careers, including 11 straight matches between 2011 and 2013. Nadal won the first five finals they contested, but Djokovic has since turned the ledger in his favour, winning seven straight from the 2011 Indian Wells Masters to that famous 2012 Australian Open, overtaking the Spaniard for a record of 14-10.


Their last match in a final came three years ago at the 2016 Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, which Djokovic won in straight sets.

“He's my biggest rival in my career,” Djokovic declared. “I’ve played so many matches against him, epic matches on this court. Of course, the one that stands out was the finals of six hours almost in 2012. Hopefully we don't go that long this time. But I'm sure we're going to have a good finals.
“Some matches that we had against each other were a great turning point in my career. I feel they have made me rethink my game.
“I had some disappointing moments where I lost to him. I think I lost to him nine times so far in the Grand Slams, and I lost some tough matches in finals and semis in French Open and US Open. I won also some great matches.
“Those kind of encounters have also made me the player I am today, without a doubt. These are the kind of matches that you live for, finals of slams, playing the greatest rivals at their best. What more can you ask for? This is where you want to be.”

Djokovic vs Nadal by the numbers

Novak DjokovicStatRafael Nadal
31Age32
Belgrade, SerbiaBirthplaceManacor, Mallorca, Spain
Monte-Carlo, MonacoResidenceManacor, Mallorca, Spain
6'2" (188cm)Height6'1" (185cm)
75kgWeight85kg
Right-handedPlaysLeft-handed
2003Turned pro2001
845/176Career W/L924-189
72Career titles80
$125,847,879Career prize money$103,251,975
14Grand Slam titles17
32ATP Masters 1000 titles33
6Australian Open titles1
67-8Australian Open W/L61-12
84.2%Hardcourt winning percentage77.3%

Djokovic and Nadal clash for the 2019 Australian Open title on Sunday January 27 at 7.30pm local time (8.30am GMT). Read a full preview of the match here.

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Djokovic talks up historic Australian Open final against Nadal: "He's my biggest rival in my career"

Novak Djokovic has declared Rafael Nadal as the greatest rival in his glittering career ahead of their historic 2019 Australian Open final showdown on Sunday - along with revealing he’s been trying to usurp the Spaniard even before they take to court to battle each other for the grand prize.

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