Novak Djokovic: It’s Always Tough Playing Rafa, But I Know I Can Win Against Him
by Tom Gainey | April 20th, 2013, 12:27 pm

Playing maybe at less than 100% this week, Novak Djokovic still had enough game to reach the final of the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters finale where tomorrow the Serb will face longtime rival Rafael Nadal.

After consecutive 3-setters, Djokovic has dominated his last two rounds beating both Jarkko Nieminen and today Fabio Fognini in very easy fashion. That will change tomorrow against Rafa who leads the Serb 19-14 in their rivalry. The last three meetings have all come on clay and all won by Nadal.

“Whenever you play Rafa, you know what to expect,” said Djokovic. “You expect the toughest challenge possible on clay. I’m ready for that. I’m very happy that physically, mentally, emotionally I have been improving as the tournament was going on. Each day I feel better on the court, more confident.

“Of course, I will have to be on top of my game. I will have to be focused and motivated from the start to the end in order to have any chance of winning against Nadal. I need to have a very optimistic mindset in order to get a win. I’m not going out there to play my best; I’m going out there to win. That’s how I’m going to feel tomorrow.”

Djokovic has never won the Monte Carlo title and he hasn’t captured a clay crown since 2011. But he does has 14 career wins over Nadal (most recently on clay at 2011 Rome) which he’ll have to draw from to have any chance Sunday.

Here’s his on-court interview after the 52-minute win over Fognini:

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73 Comments for Novak Djokovic: It’s Always Tough Playing Rafa, But I Know I Can Win Against Him

queen Says:

Brag, brag, brag…u will be crying tomorrow

Adam Says:

Novak has 14 wins against Rafa, last one at ’12 Aus. Open final.

jane Says:

That’s the only attitude to have. Take the court to win and give it the best shot. Of course Rafa is “the best on clay in history,” as Nole says, but it’s great that he doesn’t shy away from the challenge. Just like Fed used to do, Nole reaches clay finals, and he seems to relishes the challenge of facing the best on this surface. Ajde Nole!

Alok Says:

I think he novak forgot to add even with an ankle injury! LOL!

What are the odds of a Djokovic retirement tomorrow? if he loses the 1st set, bet heavy on that!

Brando Says:

Respect to Novak: no woe me since thou ankle is feeling funny. Or I feel sad, my Jelena says my form is not good. Straight from the horse’s mouth as they: I’m going onto court to win! Excuses? Leave them to those who wish to cry about something. Game on now: bring your best Rafa! Vamos!

sheila Says:

very frustrating watching tsonga against nadal. tsonga has the game to win nadal, but imho, i feel he is so inconsistent in his play. he loses patience and then seems to muscle himself into an irratic game strategy against nadal. with tsongas experience & game, i feel he should be winning @ least a set off of him. so once again 2013 is set again w/nadal vs djokovic in a final & this looks to be what every tournament will be: nadal vs djokovic. loved grigor dimitrov effort against nadal & i hope as he matures his belief becomes stronger that he can take it to the likes of nadal or djokovic. i guess it has become so predictable that nadal & djokovic will be in every final of every tournament they are in and for me i guess its getting boring, especially because they are 2 of my least fvt players, although they are both gr8 players.

contador Says:

Ajde Nole!

BadaBing Says:

How was the Fognini match? I didn’t see it.

Alex Says:

Now comes the real test for Nadal, what weve all been waiting for. Nadal vs one of the top 3 (in Good form).

If Nadal wins I predict great things for him this year. IF he loses I think this could become a tough season for Nadal.

nadalista Says:


Rafa has already met one of the Top 3, Roger Federer, and beat him fair and square.

He was on schedule to meet another one of the Top 3 at MC, Andy Murray, he could not show up.

And let’s not forget he dispatched the world #4, David Ferrer in Acapulco.

Which leaves only Novak. Tomorrow we gonna see, no?

Alok Says:

murray could not show up? more like “got his behind handed to him!” LOL!

Alok Says:

Tomorrow’s match will revela for all how djokovic and his team have been faking about his injury.

see him run like a rabbit tomorrow!

Alex Says:

I said top 3 so forget Ferrer. Come on we all know Ferrer posses little challenge to the likes of Fed and Nadal.

I specifically said inform. Federer was literally hobbled by his back so go figure. Andy isn’t great on clay, so I suppose an inform Andy on Had courts vs Nadal isn’t what I meant.

Inform Fed vs Nadal on anything other than Clay.

Inform Djoker vs Nadal on any surface

Inform Murray vs Nadal on anything other than Clay

I’m specifically referring to his comeback, as im very aware that Nadal can beat any of the current top 3 on any service if he is inform.

So I suppose what I meant is, this will prove if Nadal has still got the form that allowed him to beat the top players, when they were playing there best.

Hop this clears things up.

Alex Says:


funches Says:

The AP story off the semifinals today says Rafa has not lost in Monte Carlo since 2003 to “former Roland Garros champion Guillermo Coria.”

That should be welcome news to Coria. Heck, if he’d actually won that French Open final against Gaudio instead of choking like a dog, he might still be playing. That loss sent him into a mental funk from which he never recovered.

skeezer Says:

“Leave them to those who wish to cry about something.”

ROFL! Who has a history of that?

Great interview and atitude by Nole. Good luck Nole!

nadalista Says:


I know exactly what you meant. The reasoning behind my response is as follows:

1. Form is purely subjective. Every tennis player plays with a niggle of some form or another, so for me it’s best to take the line: if they show up on court, they are good to play, no excuses, no caveats. I mean, If we are going to say Federer had a bad back, we may as well say Rafa had a bad knee. Cancels each other out, no?

2. To prove if Rafa still has the form he had before his injury break, he has to beat the players in front of him. If those players happen to be those ranked higher than him, all the better. If they get beaten before a projected meeting with Rafa, and Rafa gets through, then you gotta say Rafa’s form is better than theirs. Rafa made the finals of IW2013, Novak could not. Same for Murray at MC.

3. I included Ferrer to complete the circle in terms of players ranked higher than Rafa.

4. May I add the following: Rafa won all his matches against top 10 players since his comeback.

The reason for my above “analysis” is to put into context your assertion that, “IF he loses I think this could become a tough season for Nadal.”

I beg to differ.

Given 1,2,3 and 4 above, a loss against Novak would not spell doom for his season, nor would it complicate it. The way I see it, Rafa won ALL the matches he had to win (Chile final excepted), some against very tricky opponents. He showed up as expected IN ALL THE FINALS.

So, how can one (possible) loss tomorrow spell doom for his season? Btw, does the corollary apply i.e. does a loss for Novak mean a tough season for Novak to follow?

Nah….even if Rafa loses tomorrow (which I am not convinced will happen btw), getting to 5 finals in 5 tournaments after a 7 months injury lay-off can only point to a positive season, imho.

skeezer Says:


Right on …on #1. Please tell Rafa.

Giles Says:

Nadal was out of the tour for 222 days.
He comes back and people think he has to prove himself again and again. He has reached 5 finals, has won 3 titles already including one MS at Indian Wells.
He doesn’t have to win everything to prove he is still one of the best.
Vamos Champ.

nadalista Says:


I don’t have to tell Rafa anything. He is the fairest player out there. Never making excuses, always giving his opponents due respect.

It’s Fedfan journos who ALWAYS bring up Rafa’s injuries when he wants to talk about other things. And we his fans never make excuses for his losses either, we always give due credit to Rafa’s opponents.

skeezer Says:

What? Uh uh ….sure lol. Whatever u say.


nadalista Says:

And btw, @alex, for me Roland Garros is the ultimate clay season goal. I would rather see Rafa lose in a Masters 1000 and use that as motivation to get ready for Roland Garros than have a season like 2009 where he won almost everything, got injured, and ran into Soderling on a cold damp freakish day……

But thank God Rafa does not listen to me, he will go all out to win tomorrow……..and win!

Giles Says:

nadalista. I have come to the conclusion that Rafa is too fair and honest for his own good. He should adopt Joker’s dubious tactics i.e. sending out false info via his coachMaryan Vajda that he has a dislocated bone in his ankle just to lull his opponents into a false sense of security. This has all turned out to be a pack of lies. The man is sooooo desperate to win he will go to any lengths. If this injury palava was true he should be laid up in bed, not running around like a rabbit.
IMO he is the worst No. 1 ever. #DoesntSetAnyGoodExamples

Julia Says:

Agree nadalista! The fans (especially fedfans on here) and the media are the ones promoting excuses nonstop….perfect for people like skeezer (where’s your twin backup Ben BTW?) who just do NOT seem to ever let anything go for years on end! Rafa has said he doesn’t want to talk about his knees, but somehow because the fans and media can’t shut up about it, it is thrown on Rafa that he is courting the media to tell his knee story every 2 hours on Fed already said his back was bothering him (not an excuse as far as fedfans but they still won’t shut up about it either, offering it up like candy if he loses.

Nina Says:

Glad to see another final between the best player in the world and the best player on clay. It will be a thriller. I hope Novak’s ankle doesn’t bother him, because despite feeling well now it’s there on the back of his mind, he said he had to make extra effort not to force his ankle and get injured. Nadal hasn’t been brilliant, but he’s still the favorite. If Nole was playing at 100% he would have a very good chance of winning, but I’m not sure he is there yet. Anyway, it’s a very important match for both, I was missing this rivalry so much.

Julia Says:

IMO, Rafa is chomping at the bit to play Nole. He has done so well since his return (nadalista post at 1:29 is perfect example) and has boosted his confidence which is such an important part of the mentality of playing tennis. He beat fed fair and square, no back as an excuse because fedfans always say, if you’re fit to play then don’t use it as excuse. If it is bothering you that bad, fed shouldn’t have played.

It will be a great match between the two and I like both, but still want Rafa to win, not only because of the record, but to add to his confidence before the FO.

Julia Says:

Quote from Rafa from before the AO about his return: “I have to take into account my form after so long out. It wouldn’t bother me if I slipped down to 15th in the world as long as inside I knew was able to continue.

“I want to be 100 percent in time for Monte Carlo and the run-up to Roland Garros.”

So obviously, MC has always been the marker for him and is very important to him!

courbon Says:

@ Giles:I Had enough!Are you serious Giles??????Talking about Novak dubious tactis????You know how?And what about seven months of -play-not play-play-not play…???That was Ok, right?You are so primitive and thick man…I lost all respect for you Giles-you have been posting rubish for last week or so but I just had enough of your b….it.Don’t answer back because surely will be nothing inteligent.You are very small …in your head

Giles Says:
Gala dinner in MC.
No world no.1 ?

Skeezer Says:

Yep right files it was nice to see Borg there, best #1 on Clay ever.


You think that is bad, wait till tomorrow. If Rafa wins they will claiming he is #1, GOAT, and did it all claiming he wasn’t 100%.

courbon Says:

No Giles, no number 1 at party-its a exactly one year since his grandfathers died so it would not be right…you are still trying to be clever?I don’t hear it?

Julia Says:

Skeezer Says:
Yep right files it was nice to see Borg there, best #1 on Clay ever.


You think that is bad, wait till tomorrow. If Rafa wins they will claiming he is #1, GOAT, and did it all claiming he wasn’t 100%.

HMMMM, I thought Rafa was King of Clay, having beaten Borg’s records a while back? As far as your expected hatred predictions and broken record excuse diatribe…makes me wonder if you are Jamie in disguise?

Julia Says:

Rafa hasn’t said anything about not being 100% and has refused to talk about injuries. The only one talking injuries is Nole, as expected, since he did hurt his ankle. Don’t use that as excuse if Nole loses skeezer, since it is the same thing as using fed’s back as excuse…. if his back or Nole’s ankle was that bad, they shouldn’t have played!

skeezer Says:

You guys are sick. Rafa has been good “this tournament”, but you would have to be hiding under a rock till now to think his career isn’t laden with injury excuses.

In regards to Rafa and Borg, it was sarcasm as Gleischer igniting once again in assumption the question that Rafa is the #1 player in the world.

Surely Rafa is now King of Clay, but surely as of now he is #5 ranked player in the world also, NOT #1.

Julia Says:

skeezer says: “You think that is bad, wait till tomorrow. If Rafa wins they will claiming he is #1, GOAT, and did it all claiming he wasn’t 100%.”

You mean, like fedfans like yourselves do anytime fed won? Even when he wasn’t #1, 2008 season, and every time Rafa beat him? Back, mono, age. etc….
My fave was the light at Wimbledon 2008, as if the lack of light didn’t affect Rafa also???

skeezer Says:

So now we are talking fan excuses, not the actual player who gives excuses. Whats next, chicken and waffles?

Julia Says:

Fan excuses tend to be the majority given. Unfortunately, some here tend to confuse fans with players and think whatever the fans say, the player says.

Julia Says:

And some like you, are a broken record in your repitive posts on excuses by Rafa, with ben as your backup. (BTW, it’s so cute when you two keep posting back and forth and agree with each

Time for you to move on to other subjects skeezer.

skeezer Says:

^talk your fave about “broken record”.

Giles Says:

@Julia. The lack of light at Wimbledon 2008 excuse has to stand out as the best of all time. Lol

Julia Says:

Giles, the fedfans gave that excuse repeatedly. Fed did not and refused to do so, even when pushed by the media.

Steve 27 Says:

skeezer is one of those people who speak so many negative things about anyone in particular, showing jealousy and poverty of spirit, showing himself as someone of low moral standing. He does not know the meaning of ethics and respect for others. In other words, “is a small man.”

Julia Says:

I know steve27. He may have said “out” on here but just jumped to another thread to rag on Rafa.

Steve 27 Says:

Julia, Yes, his sick hatred of Spanish, is unfortunate and shows how to be this guy.

Skeezer Says:

Now your lying. I never said throughout the years I have posted here I hate Rafa, nor the Spanish culture. If u have something to say at me, say it.

alison Says:

Courbon your favorite has had a pretty great week all things considered,its a year since he lost his grandfather,he injured his ankle and at the begining of the week there were doubts he would even play MC,he has already exceeded everybodys expectations,bring on the final hope its a cracker :)

Julia Says:

skeezer, your repeated actions (i.e. posts) speak louder than your denials. You actually complain more about Rafa than you praise fed…lol. I never said anything about the Spanish, just Rafa.

skeezer Says:

^that was steve27, read. Lol.

Julia Says:

I did not claim that you said I said Spanish culture. I was just clarifying the difference between what steve said and what I said. read.LOL

skeezer Says:


“Speak louder…”,
No. Not true. How idiotic. Because I say or post this, I MUST be that. This is mind of the Rafa obsessed fan in action. You assume too much, and this is why you fail in it. I do not Hate Rafael Nadal, lets just leave it at that.

alison Says:

Agree with Nadalista Rafas been in 4 finals since his return,tomorrow is his 5th,and so far hes won 3 titles hes only been back playing a few weeks,so win or loose tomorrow i dont think he has much to prove,or much to be ashamed of if he does loose,hes beaten Federer,Ferrer,Delpo,Berdych,Tsonga all of which are quality top 10 players,so if he looses to a guy whos world no1 so what?hardly a disgace,and hardly the end of the world,he proved he can beat the top players on his comeback what else is he expected to do?

Julia Says:

skeezer wrote: “Because I say or post this, I MUST be that.”

Unless you are lying in your posts, people have to take you at your word. And your constant complaints about Rafa? It is generally thought, that people don’t spend hours, upon months too, complaining about one person unless they have deep-seated negative emotions about that person.

Steve 27 Says:

I was referring to the most famous Spanish tennis player, not of Spanish culture. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding. And as Julia said, it seems that only you enter the forum to denigrate, despise, accusing, mocking Nadal, more than praise, deify, exalt the Swiss. To paraphrase Jose Mourinho, Why?

Julia Says:

steve, that is what I am saying precisely! He said out on here when people said something about his rants, only to jump to a new thread to try to start another rant about the time violation thing. It can’t be that fed is on break. That has never stopped people from posting about fed. It wasn’t like Rafa fans didn’t post for the 7 months he was off

skeezer Says:

i only say the true, no? And will continue. Thank you for the attention. Glad you read my posts. Vamos!

Steve 27 Says:

Julia, if not too much trouble, is Steve, in uppercase.

Steve 27 Says:

No, what you call truth subjectively, is just trash of the worst kind towards one goal: someone named Nadal. And the worst thing is that you would keep doing until the Spanish withdrawal. And you do not seem to understand, on the contrary, you rejoice in your incoherent sentences. You get defensive and start insulting everyone who disagrees with your opinion. I do not know how old or what kind of education you have, but it does not excuse what you do consistently. You yourself disrespect. You have to grow, boy, begin to show others that we can discuss with you, instead of responding with irony and sarcasm, always. Ah, it’s always good to go to a psychologist from time to time, there is nothing wrong.

Wog boy Says:

Regards Nole not being present at “Gala dinner at MC”, as Courbon said some people had to be educated and not to try to be smarta$$es.
In Ortodox Christianity , I cannot talk about other christian denominations, we have 12 months mourning period. There is 7 days wake, 40 days wake, 6 months wake and finally 12 months wake.we believe that by that time soul of loved ones is still around. On those days we visit the graves of loved one, priest comes too, we bring the food and drink too and everybody that attented funeral can come. In a case you are away, as Nole is, you lit the candle, do little prayer for the soul of loved one to find peace in eternity, put little bit of food in one plate for the person(s) that are not with as any more and raised the glasses for their soul(s) to rest in peace.
It was exactly 12 months since Novak “Deda” passed away, that is why #1 wasn’t at Gala dinner, his only mistake is that he forgot to inform Giles, he will do it next time.

skeezer Says:


Apparently you think you know psychology. You want to talk tennis or tennis players? Bring it on. But this is not a thread for selling therapy tips. There are plenty of blogs for that. Try TT.

Steve 27 Says:

First is Steve 27.
Second This is the meaning of hate, you did not know:
Feeling deep aversion, antipathy, enmity or profound rejection of a person, animal or thing. This feeling is uncontrollable for the person who has it and is usually accompanied by a desire to injure, destroy or prevent the hated object.
Carefully read everything you write about this one in particular, and you will realize what you suffer. And I tell you honestly, no offense, unlike you.

skeezer Says:

First of all, you don’t know how I feel. I “feel” fine

Secondly, Don’t cleverly assume with words “usually” as I caterogically deny what comes after. That does not mean “does”. You’re a piece of accusutory work.
Easy to google pysch language.

courbon Says:

@ Alison : Hi , hope you are well.
I’m very happy with Novak being in the final-he will most likely lose today bvut thats not important.He did not damage himself more (well, hopefully final will be not too long ), got clay practise and is not loosing any points.Thats great.Thats all Novaks fan can ask for.Winning today?I would say 20-30% chance-but thats fine…and I’m happy we will stop listening about ‘ankle’ (I’m like you on that one-can’ tlisten anymore ).

courbon Says:

@ Wog Boy:
Dear Wog, I read your yesterday post about Serbia and how well you have been treated in that country.I always wanted to visit that country but I thought they are barbarians, cannibals and do strange rituals ( like in sports-when they win, thay rip off shirts and run around like gorillas, so strange….)-do you think is safe for me and my family?I’m eagerly waiting for your response,

yours respectufully

Wog boy Says:

Dear courbon,

You are safe to come and enjoy hospitality and beauty of Serbia (and other Balkan countries), but please, bring a spare liver with you, you will need it, trust me.

Looking forward to being your host.

Best regards,

Wog Boy

courbon Says:

Thank you Wog, I’ll be packing my bags right now…

Michael Says:

Novak is the one player who exhibits confidence when playing Rafa. I think that would make a huge difference to the result. Although Nadal would be the favourite to win this one, yet Novak may spring a pleasant surprise.

courbon Says:

Hi Michael, I think Rafa wins this one something like 70:30 in his favour…but there is always 30% to hope for?

steve-o Says:

Nadal doesn’t learn new tricks. His game is based, in fact, on not having to learn new tricks. If he had to make significant adjustments during a match, he’d make mistakes.

A brick wall gets every ball back. That’s its “trick,” and it doesn’t need any other.

On such a slow, high-bouncing surface, his shots are so heavy that it’s nearly impossible for the opponent to get a clean hit on the ball. The opponents’ options are: hit harder, and risk overhitting, or take the ball earlier, and risk burning out mentally.

Djokovic’s strategy will be, as usual, to make lots of returns, hit deep, rip his forehand at Nadal’s backhand to open the court, force Nadal to overhit from the baseline. Easier said than done, as I said, it’s nearly impossible to get a clean hit, or to put enough depth and pace on the ball to get past Nadal’s ridiculous retrieving.

The importance of net play in this match is, I think, overrated. That won’t really be how it’s won. Neither player bothers coming in unless they have blasted the other guy way off court and have a very easy volley to make into wide open space.

Conditions might make a difference. A soggy day will favor Djokovic (recall RG last year when Djokovic managed to win the third set), on a sunny day where the ball bounces higher, Nadal. Djokovic can’t win unless his movement is at its peak.

To me the interesting thing is how Nadal responds if he loses. Nadal’s game is not interesting to me in the first place, still less his winning, and even less his winning a title where he has reigned unchallenged for a decade. If he lost that would be a new situation, which would make Nadal a bit more interesting.

I suspect he would be inclined to skip Madrid to rebuild confidence if he loses MC, but he can’t afford to miss any clay events. So he would probably play, quite shaken, and not do great, since he’s so accustomed to dominating here.

the DA Says:

Reports of lots of clouds and a few rain drops at MC just minutes ago:

These conditions will certainly favor one of the players.

serbian hammer Says:

And he was right,take that Nadal fans.I only regret Djokovic didnt bageled Nadal in the first set.

Michael Says:


The health warning is that we cannot make guess in Tennis. It always turns wrong.

courbon Says:

@ Michael: You are so right there.I did not give much chance to Novak…

skeezer Says:


Great post. Thanks for sticking around ;)

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