Rafael Nadal: I Don’t Know If I Can Beat Novak Djokovic
by Tom Gainey | January 2nd, 2012, 6:03 pm

Rafael Nadal met the press today in Doha and he again talked about that mental block he seems to have against Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic beat Rafa six crushing times in six finals last year. But even though he’s unsure if he can ever get back on top of the Serb, he’s ready for the challenge.

“I think everybody thinks that Djokovic will be difficult to beat,” Nadal said. “Not myself. You cannot be on top every time. I lost against Djokovic in all the finals, but I only [just] lost against him. That’s a really positive thing. He did better than me and that’s it.

“I don’t know if I can beat him. The only thing that I know is I have to practise to improve my tennis, and that’s what I going to try to do. For the rest of my career, I don’t know if that’s going to be enough to beat him or to lose him 100 more times. I cannot predict that.

“What I can predict is I going to work hard to try to be competitive enough to play with well against everybody, not only against him, because first thing – you have to be in finals. That’s a very difficult thing to do.”

Nadal still leads Djokovic 16-13 in their career series but the tables have undeniably turned. Novak has been the winner in nine of the last 11.

While Djokovic will have two more weeks to rest before his Australian Open title defense, Nadal, who’s been hampered by a shoulder injury, is in Doha this week along with Roger Federer. The Spaniard is reportedly using a new, heavier racquet this season.

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34 Comments for Rafael Nadal: I Don’t Know If I Can Beat Novak Djokovic

Wog boy Says:

“You cannot be on top every time.”
There is one problem Rafa, watching Nole and how eager he is to learn and to improve his game, the top of Nole’s game can go only up but not down and what about you?

Wog boy Says:

Just to make it clear, I didn’t mean Rafa is not going to bit Nole at all, but by the end of 2012 Nole will be ahead of Rafa, again.

Peter Says:

Wrongly reported answers.

Nadal was asked whether he thinks Djokovic will be difficult to beat, having in mind the 6 losses of last year.

He answered that everybody thinks so, not just him.

And by “You cannot be on top every time” he meant that he, Nadal, couldn’t be on top all the time like he was in 2010.

Wog boy Says:


That is completly different meaning, you are right.

Humble Rafa Says:

I don’t think I will beat Nole this year. My goal is to take a set every 3rd math or so. And more importantly, not get bageled or bread sticked.

Thangs Says:

Misleading headline…Journalism..what to say?

Kimmi Says:

Nishikori came back from the brink of defeat. great fight back. that is what separate good players and great players. good luck on the next match.

Michael Says:

It is an honest assessment by Nadal and it is also reassuring that he has not let the Djokovic’s dominance cloud his thoughts. He is clear about one thing and ie. to improve his Tennis which well he can do knowing Nadal and his grit. I am sure Nadal has got the game to beat Novak but for that to happen he has to be on the top of his game like when he was in 2010 when he became invincible.

skeezerweezer Says:

Sniff sniff ….just play already and win or lose…too much talk about excuses, pre injuries, illness, why I don’t win.etc etc….dang just DO IT! Getting so old with their sh!t. Why does the Tennis world want to report on such nonsense?

Ajet Says:

Nadal looked vulnerable at Wimbledon in 2010. However he looked invincible at USO 10. At RG, though he played well in 2010, but he was at his absolute best only at RG 08, closely followed by WIM 08 and USO 10(in USO 10, his serve looked untouchable!). I dunno about others, but to me, Nadal was at his clear best in 1.RG 08(ABSOLUTELY UNCHALLENGEABLE!!!) and then 2. USO 10. To me these two are Nadal’s best display till date, closely followed by WIM 08. Interestingly though the most unconvincing win of Nadal yet have come only at RG 11 closely followed by WIM 10.

IMO Nadal’s best performance in slams(winning)
1. RG 08
2. USO 10
3. WIM 08
4. FO 10
5. AUS 09

Vulnerable perfromance in slam(winning)
1. RG 2011(that was due to djokoworria disease) ;)

Ajet Says:

Nadal’s comments are always predictable. Hopefully Djokovic keeps beating him throughout 2012 in all the important meetings.

Ajet Says:

And Federer will keep losing to Nadal in the important as well as inconsequential matches, not only due to the fact that he doubts his game against Nadal’s but also because Federer’s game has fallen off his perch quite noticeably and he also is at least half-a-step to a step slower. The same things will also present him from winning against Novak Djokovic. For his own good, Fed would be much better if someone else takes out these guys before they meet him, or they’d keep beating him. However, after all is said and done, if anybody can prove me wrong here, it’s Federer himself. And I hope he does(though I won’t bet my life on it).

billyboy512 Says:

hey..skeezersheezer..nonsense? it’s called authentic, honest and direct…not like the acrid spin federer puts on his “nonsense”

mem Says:

skeezer the weasel,

maybe they report on it because they can count on snakes like you to smell it and come running to eat it! it’s what you do best!

Michael Says:

If a player of the calibre of Nadal is afraid of Novak, then what can be a more bigger tribute to Novak ??? He has already conquered the World.

Ajet Says:

Don’t think Nadal is afaid of anyone. Just because Novak dominated him one year, it won’t be right to use the word afraid. If Nadal were really afraid of Novak, why’d he give his all in the WIM & US 11 semis to beat Murray and reach the final! Nadal doubts himself against Novak, either this or the recent game of Novak doesn’t suit him, hence the losses. Novak is far from becomingto Rafa what Rafa has become to Roger; though even in Roger’s case, I’d not say Roger is afraid of Rafa either. However Roger has much more doubt in him (particularly since FO 08 defeat) against playing Rafa than Rafa perhaps has against playing Novak.

Ajet Says:

BTW, if it werent for his defeat in RG semi in 2011, it may be argued that Novak’d have perhaps indeed completed world conquest at least once in 2011!

margot Says:

Michael: how come “I don’t know if I can beat him” has become he’s “afraid” of Nole? Bit of a leap?

madmax Says:

Well, this is what Rafa was reported to have said and it’s alot different to the headline:

Nadal suggested that, for now, he has come to terms with being No. 2.

“You know in the sport … you cannot be every time in the top,” he said. “I think I played fantastic for seven, eight months in the 2011 season.

“I lost against Djokovic in all the finals, but I almost only lost against him. So that’s a really positive thing, play almost every final in all the difficult and important tournaments.”

Nadal lost to Djokovic in six finals in 2011 and wouldn’t say whether he can reverse the trend. The Spaniard has said he felt his tennis in 2011 at times was too predictable. He has started using a heavier racket to increase his power. His preparations for the season have been curtailed by a left shoulder injury that he says has healed.

“The only thing I know is I have to practice to improve my tennis. For the rest of my career, I don’t know if that’s going to be enough to beat him (Djokovic) or to lose to him 100 more times,” Nadal said.

“I don’t even know, but I cannot predict that,” he added. “What I can predict is I (am) going to work hard to try to be enough competitive to play with good chances against everybody, not only against him because the first thing, you have to be in the finals. That’s a very difficult thing to do, not only win that once.”

Federer, too, couldn’t avoid questions about Djokovic, who beat the Swiss in the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament last week. He lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open and U.S. Open but exacted some revenge at the French Open semifinals by ending Djokovic’s 43-match winning streak.

“He was definitely the most consistent player of this last year, and he looks like he’s in good shape again for this upcoming season,” Federer said.

“So it’s obviously someone who is going to be followed very closely not just by the media but also by the players,” he said. “I think we’re also all feeling pretty well, as well, so it’s going to be interesting for all of us to see who’s going to have the best start to the season.”

Federer said his strong finish last season — a 17-match winning streak that culminated in a record sixth title at the year-end championships in London — has given him hope.

“You can definitely take confidence from the end of the year and sort of just carry it over because you’re in a good mindset,” Federer said. “You know, you just believe that you’re doing the right things on the court. You’re not second guessing yourself. From that standpoint, confidence is … it’s a huge part of our, you know, life sometimes as a tennis player.”

As for the chances of regaining the top ranking or winning another major this season, the 16-time Grand Slam champion said it was too early to make bold predictions.

“You have to go step by step, and right now focus is on Doha, my first round. It’s a tough one against Davydenko,” Federer said.

“Then I do hope I can move on and defend my title here and then go to sort of Australia and make my move over there,” he added. “Then I have a lot coming up in February, as well, for me. So it’s going to be an interesting next two months for me because I will be playing a lot of tennis. So I hope that I will hold up well physically.”

Federer said there was no need for significant changes to his game because he has been playing well.

“I think the offseason has been too short to take any major, you know, change, anything crazy,” he said. “I mean, I have had what, 20 days of practice? I don’t think anybody can reinvent themselves within three weeks. Given three months, things can change a bit.”

Dory Says:

This time and every time. Novak’s gonna beat Rafa.

Michael Says:

@Dory. Hey man sounds like you have TWO CRYSTAL BALLS!!

Susie Says:

Instead of commenting on this heavily edited (and slanted) “quotes”, read the full transcript of Nadal’s interview:

You’ll be appaled at the liberties the press take with someone’s words. The real meaning gets completely altered.

Even better, watch this presser on YouTube, where the answers get their full meaning coupled with word stressing and gestures.

For example, Nadal says. “I think EVERYBODY thinks that Djokovic will be difficult to beat, no? Not MYSELF.”

That’s the root of the problem: the press demanded from tournament directors the press conference transcripts be supressed for several days, so that they can write their bombastic, false “quotes” and tabloid titles in the meantime.

Fred Says:

Rafa you just need to double up on whatever it is you’ve been getting away with for years and find out what Djokovic has been using and you’ll “beat” Novak.Don’t worry sweetie;the knee pain;shoulder pain;eyelashes pain; hair pain and fingernail pain will all go away

Michael Says:

Margot & Ajet, With no disrespect to a great Champion like Nadal, I used the word “afraid” in a conjecture sense wherein my statement will acquire more purpose if there is more evidence. I am still aware that Nadal can beat Djokovic and he has that game. However, my statement will become more valid if Novak repeats the drubbing in 2012 too. Nonetheless, all the credit to Novak who outplayed him all through 2011.

Kitty Says:

Why does this website continue to write things about Rafa when it’s clear he is disliked here? Maybe to gain hits by using his popularity perhaps? Highly pathetic behavior if you ask me.

And some of the posters here are morons who think time stands still. Nothing would please me more than to see the lot of them stick their foot in that gaping maw they like to call a mouth.

skeezerweezer Says:

Its always a conspiracy against Rafa! OMG! No truths, no Love, no real feelings about the man, the myth, the legend, the sexy hotness. He is innocent of all things and all injuries, excuses, penalties, interviews and losses. I know MY Rafa. Please visit Nadalnews.com for the truth. You are all jealous that his one big thing in life is that he has a winning record against Fed, and you all base your lies on that! You all know that is all that matters! Pathetic! Jealousy will get you nowhere. Rafa is the hottest thing on the planet. Tennis is nothing. He will be a superstar whatever he does. I love him. You all are pathetic losers who don’t know what your talking about. Haters! Losers! Love you Rafa!

Seriously, Some of you fan girl extremists give Rafa a bad rap by talkin the Love chant.

He is a great, great player. Huge heart. He is only missing the never say die attitude he once had. Why not just let him play and prove it? That is your ultimate answer to the anti rafa’s. There is nothing more answered than to “just win baby”. Me thinks he has plenty of that left.

When favs are losin they get stomped on, nothin new, ask Fed fans or Nole fans… as Colin says……just sayin ;)

mat4 Says:


LOL. I had the information that when he was allegedly injured, he was practising flat forehands and backhands like never before.

Never seen so much “mind” games in the last 10 years. But when I think about it, it seems that Rafa was always a master of it. Just look at the way he made losing almost “palatable” to Roger.

And now, it could be crucial. Because whatever pundits say, if I remember well, when the H2H changes between players, it changes for good.

rogerafa Says:

@ mat4

That is a very perceptive comment you made about Nadal and I have felt that way always. He and his uncle must get a lot of credit for the way they have managed to keep Nadal’s rivals soft. Nadal is a champion almost programmed to win by hook or, many times, by crook. He rarely misses a trick on the court if he thinks it will give him any kind of assistance. He gets away with it because the officials just aren’t enforcing the rules. Even then, I do not think I have seen a top player who has had so many warnings. As an observer, one is absolutely fascinated by the sight of such a street smart champion operating on the edge.

The things he does on the court should make many players mad at him. However, he is such a charmer off the court that he probably confuses the other players. His generally sugary-sweet talk and humility probably prevents them from “hating” him. Imagine guys like Roger, Murray and Djokovic getting enraged and motivating and devoting themselves to beating him the way the top guys in the 1980s used to do. Roger, for one, does appear pretty happy with the ‘respect’ shown by Nadal. I do not know if the vast gulf in Nadal’s on and off-court persona is deliberate or it is a genuine case of split personality. From all accounts, he seems to be a genuinely nice person off the court. Whatever it is, it has worked brilliantly to give him an edge on the court while keeping his rivals softened off it.

jane Says:

Interesting points lately about the pitfalls of friendliness off court and the problems that can cause on court. I remember when Fed beat Nole at the FO he said something like it was a birthday gift for Rafa, to whom he promptly lost. Lol. I am sure Fed said it in jest, but still, one wonders if he had been more ruthless, would he have finally beaten Rafa at the FO. This year of any, Rafa seemed somewhat vulnerable there, as vulnerable as Rafa could actually be at the FO, I mean.:) Obviously that isn’t very vulnerable. But he did play his first ever five setter there I thinkz? Also, I wonder about the Murray and Rafa rivalry. I mean, if they are hanging out and playing play station does that then affect how Murray reacts on the court versus Nadal? I know Nole was less “firendly” and more “professional” last year and clearly it was his best year ever. So it must be a fine line the players have to balance.

mat4 do you think that is true about H2Hs changing permanently? Do you think it is the same with being inside a players head (i.e., Fed in Roddick’s, Rafa in Fed’s, etc…)?

Michael Says:

@Skeerweezer. Jan 4. 11.44 pm. Great post!

grendel Says:

Ajet – agree with your assessments of when Nadal was at his most imperious (@Jan3, 1.27a.m.). Also, your speculation at 1.36 a.m. is spot on I think – although at the same time, as you hint, questionable….

Ajet Says:


AWESOME POST on jan 4 11.44 pm, LOL!!! ;P

Thought-provoking posts by rogerafa (the name’s more thought-provoking tough! ;)) and also by mat4.

Ajet Says:

‘jane Says:
Interesting points lately about the pitfalls of friendliness off court and the problems that can cause on court. I remember when Fed beat Nole at the FO he said something like it was a birthday gift for Rafa, to whom he promptly lost. Lol.’


Ajet Says:

Thanks for agreeing grendel…

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