Novak Djokovic Uses Unique ‘I’ Word to Describe Playing Archrival Rafael Nadal at French Open

Novak Djokovic Uses Unique ‘I’ Word to Describe Playing Archrival Rafael Nadal at French Open

Tennis fans will remember Novak Djokovic’s press conference after losing to Jannik Sinner in the Australian Open semi-final. When asked about the next Grand Slam i.e. the French Open, Djokovic mentioned that as long as Rafael Nadal was playing, he will always remain the biggest threat.

Now, after Nadal has availed himself of the French Open, right after the Italian Open, Djokovic is once again posed with the question. His response is iconic.

Rafael Nadal will be eyeing for a record 15th French Open title this year, while Novak Djokovic would be looking to defend his title and make it No.4 on the Parisian clay. And Nadal leads their head-to-head 8-2 in the clay-court Grand Slam.

Looking back at the experience he has in playing his biggest archrival, Novak Djokovic opened up in a press conference at the Italian Open recently about the electrifying energy Rafael Nadal brings on the court, especially on clay. And this is the most prevalent at Roland Garros.

The World No.1 used the word ‘impenetrable’, which is as good as saying it is next to impossible to beat him there.

It’s impenetrable, you know. He’s like a wall, you know. It’s really a paramount challenge, you know, to play him in Roland Garros. He’s an incredible athlete. the tenacity and the intensity he brings on the court, particularly there is, is something that, is very, was very rarely seen, I think in the history of the sport,” Djokovic was quoted as saying.

“So, I’m sure that he’s going to be very emotional tournament for him. You know, as it is, probably was in Madrid and here. But there in particular because of all the records he has.”

Djokovic is the second person in two days to speak about what it’s like to face Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. Alexander Zverev spoke about the same a day before starting his Italian Open 2024 journey. His response was more of awe, especially when he recalled the 2022 semi-final between them.

Ever since Nadal announced his participation at the French Open, many discussions have revolved around him. While Djokovic talked about the 22-time Grand Slam champion’s defense and athletic skills, Zverev was stupefied by the increased speed of his shots at the French Open.

Why Is Rafael Nadal a Clay Legend? Ex-Australian Player Paul McNamee Gives Answer

A week and a half ago, ex-Australian player Paul McNamee was on The AO Show podcast, speaking about his book ‘Welcome to the Dance: Master Clay to Master Tennis,’ and why tennis on clay is the best form of tennis. In that, he explained that Rafael Nadal and Bjorn Borg (who also won 6 French Open titles) are probably the greatest clay court players of all time.

When it comes to Nadal, McNamee attributed the Spaniard’s legendary forehand as a big reason behind him winning 14 titles there.  The Spaniard’s movements on clay are also like ‘poetry in motion’.

McNamee also explained how Nadal always keeps his opponents guessing till the very last moment. The Spaniard doesn’t give up, and in the end, forces them to make mistakes. The Australian was quoted as saying in the podcast –

“So I’m not a great fan of players who are not good on clay. Yeah, that’s true… Well look Rafa and Bjorn Borg are far and away the grand masters, we can call them chess, cause clay is chess at the end of the day, hard court is draught. They are quite different games. One is linear, one is angular, one has nuances, one does not. So, a clay court is a chess board. So, the grandmasters are Rafael Nadal and Bjorn Borg,” McNamee was quoted as saying.

On Thursday, Rafael Nadal kicked off his Italian Open 2024 campaign with a victory over Zizou Bergs in the Round of 128. However, Nadal has a sterner test ahead of him in the Round of 64, as Hubert Hurkacz prepares to dethrone the ‘King’ in Rome.

If the Spaniard manages to pull off a win over Hurkacz, that could say a lot about the 14-time champion’s chances at the French Open this year.

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