Novak Djokovic Says Nadal Has Become More Aggressive, Especially In His Return Game
by Tom Gainey | August 15th, 2013, 11:19 am

Novak Djokovic had defeated his rival Rafael Nadal at one point in their rivalry seven straight times. But Nadal has jumped on the Serb recently winning five of their last six including Saturday night’s thriller at the Rogers Cup Montreal.

Djokovic’s was asked Tuesday at the Western & Southern if anything had changed in Rafa’s game.

“He became more aggressive,” Djokovic said. “That’s where I felt it. Especially on the return in Montreal he was coming closer to the line and he was picking up the ball quite fast.

“So that was different probably comparing to our last matches on hard court. But it was still a close one. It was quite fast conditions in Montreal, so there were not many long rallies and everything was happening quite quickly.”

Djokovic is thought to be the better returner with a better serve, but in Saturday’s match Rafa won more points on serve and against serve than Novak.

Nadal now leads Novak 21-15 in this rivalry. Rafa is also ahead in the 2013 points race.

“2011 I was winning most of them; now he’s winning,” added Djokovic. “It’s a course of life, you know. You can’t always be winning the matches. You can’t always be the one that is going to prevail in the important moments. It’s mental. It’s a matter of confidence also. Sometimes you manage to go for the shot that usually you wouldn’t and sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t for you. I guess that makes a difference.”

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27 Comments for Novak Djokovic Says Nadal Has Become More Aggressive, Especially In His Return Game

Brando Says:

Fair comment. Same assessment as all really. This is a proper rivalry: their will be ebbs and flow to it in favor of one and then the other. They are closely matched in their game IMO. Hence, when calls are made that one guy owns the other I find them pretty laughable as really that ain’t the case. Nole’s right: the margin is very small between these 2 and victory or loss is usually determined by a few points here or there.

Tennis x Hippy Chic Says:

It is an honest assessment from Nole,it is not 2011 anymore thats in the past,its 2013 and Rafa has worked on ways to improve against Nole,Rafas game wasnt bothering Nole in 2011,it is now,it took a while for Rafa to solve the Nole puzzle but he kept plugging away,Nole forced Rafa to improve his game and become more aggressive and take the ball early,i enjoy watching Rafas more aggressive style of tennis,im not saying he will get the better of Nole everytime they face of on a HC as Nole is a master on HCs,but if Rafa continues with this style i think their future meetings are more balanced now than what they were IMO.

hawkeye Says:

Indeed. They are very closely matched when they play. Hard to predict the outcomes.

Only difference is Rafa’s 12-6 slam advantage, Rafa’s 25-14 Master’s advantage and Rafa’s 21-15 h2h advantage.

These two push each other to perform at their best and to continually improve.


SG1 Says:

These two are really closely matched. Their matches are quite riveting (…and exhausting)to watch. The line between winning and losing is so fine for Rafa and Novak when they play each other. One guy gets a bit of an edge on the other and that guy goes on a bit of a run.

Anna Says:

It’s just great to see Rafa’s confidence working when playing Novak. I thnk this aggressive play is going to go a long way, not just on hard courts, but clay also, and not just against Nole, but other top 10 players as well.

grendel Says:

“These two are really closely matched”

That’s why the rivalry could turn out to be the most enthralling ever. Of course, you never know what tricks time will play.

josh Says:

It seems Novak is out of it mentally right now against Rafa, even during the Wimbledon final against Murray, he just seems more tired than in the past.

I have noticed that Rafa is playing more aggressive, which is great to see. All these top tier players are great in adjusting their game.

This has been a great rivalry and their matches have been very entertaining!

Legend Says:

Djokovic Says:
“It was quite fast conditions in Montreal”

Djokovic doesnt know anything about tennis. He doesnt know the simple fact that Rafa cannot play on a fast hard court…let alone beating a top 10 player….let alone beating the world number 1 in his prime who is proclaimed as one of the best ever hard court player ever.

Nirmal Kumar Says:

In tennis, it’s always much easier to chase rather than be a leader. When Nole surged in 2011, he was chasing Rafa and Roger. So was the underdog, could go for all the shots at the key moments against these guys, since he had less to lose than the Top 2. But now it’s not the same anymore.

Nadal had felt the same pressure when he was No 1. But he is in position like Novak was in 2011 and going after the shots. It’s quite interesting, how these guys play better when they chase rather than lead.

Ben Pronin Says:

NK, I think Federer and Sampras actually played better when they were the leaders. Kinda weird, actually.

Nirmal Kumar Says:

Ben, Yes that’s true. But i’m just comparing between Novak and Rafa. They seem to play more aggressive when they are chasing. It happened with Nadal and also Novak. When they were No 1, they seem to be more conservative.

skeezer Says:

It is much easier to chase than to Lead.

Obviously. That is why there are few Leaders, and lots of followers. It takes a special mindset and courage. You all all by yourself there. It usually takes a special person to handle this unusual place in Life. Fed is for sure and outstanding modelistic Leader throughout his career.

Tennis x Hippy Chic Says:

Tsonga has pulled out of the USO.

Ben Pronin Says:

With Nadal it’s very evident, he’s also been the chaser throughout much of his career. Interestingly enough, he very clearly wants to be number 1. He believes he’s the best, often plays like it, and has been expressing it more and more in the last few years.

I feel like Novak has become too relaxed. He needs to chase because he needs a fire under his ass to get himself motivated. It’s almost as if he feels no pressure up there. Nadal, on the other hand, felt too much pressure and wilted a bit.

Polo Says:

Did Nadal wilt or played conservatively when he was number one? I thought he just got physical ailments that prevented him from playing.

Polo Says:

Uh-oh! Federer is losing to an older player.

Ben Pronin Says:

Depends on how much you believe that physical ailments are connected to your mentality. Recall that Nadal didn’t play much after the US Open in 08 when he first became number 1. He played incredible at the Australian Open and for a few months until losing for the first time at the French and then missing a few months. Again he was in beast mode in 2010 but succumbed to injury at the beginning of 2011. Even last year he was pretty much on course to reclaiming the throne before injuries struck again.

Alex Says:

Fed definitely needs LOTS of match practice. I do not want him facing Nadal in this form. I think it would be a straight forward win for Nadal.

Brando Says:

Re Rafa and number 1:

He became number 1 in 2008 for the first time. He was having a scorching 2009, then BOOM: knee injury, has 2 months out, cannot play Wimby, and a dismal rest of year trying to get some form back.

Then 2010 happens. Career best year.

2011? Had injury at the start, but we all know a hurricane hit the scene that year out of nowhere.

2012? Leading the race until the Rosol match and BOOM: out for 7 months.


Rafa has no real problem for being number 1 it’s just he got hit by severe injuries. Aside from injuries ONLY in 2011 you could say he struggled with the number 1 rank: but who wouldn’t when a player suddenly gazumps you by losing 1 match in 9 months?

LOL- Rafa rightfully lost no.1 that year to a deserving player.

Re Nole as number 1:

No idea.

MMT Says:

hey grendel, I know this was a long time ago, but do you remember a (long) discussion we had a couple years ago about the mental game?

Well, did you happen to see the match tonight between Dimitrov and Nadal? Nadal is up a break in the third 4-2, and has a second break point which he loses on…you guessed it, a “– a backhand pass moving forward – it’s one of the few shots in his arsenal he doesn’t hit well.”

Now, to be fair you really let me have it because of this comment, but even Patrick McEnroe commented that this shot that he missed against Dimitrov was eerily similar to the shot he missed against Djokovic at the Australian Open final last year.

So you see? I wasn’t making it up, he REALLY doesn’t hit that shot well at all, and I just knew that if I waited long enough he’d miss that shot again!

James Says:

Wow @MMT, you waited this long, more than a year and half to witness another Rafa missed backhand moving forward shot. I’ve seen a hundred DFs from him since. Just saying.

tennismonger Says:

Rafa played a “tasty” (Murray’s word) backhand moving forward @ Nole last week in Canada.

It was not a miss by any stretch of the imagination!

Michael Says:

Hats off to Rafa who was unceremoniously written off when he was ranged against Novak. There were many critiques who were saying that Novak was in Rafa’s head. But, Rafa has yet again shown to the world that he is a true Champion and he will always find answers to puzzles. Against Novak, he has applied more aggression to counter aggression and that seems to have unsettled Novak a little bit. Yet, still if there is a player who can give Nadal sleepless nights even when he is playing well, it can only be Novak, not even Andy. Novak has that game to beat Nadal and the matches these two play have always been close.

Tennis x Hippy Chic Says:

Michael much agreed with your post,however i think Novak is actually having sleepless nights of his own now to be honest,in the shape of a new and improved Murray,as Murray is a two time GS champion,whom has actually beaten Novak in two of the last 3 GS,the days of Andy been everybodys whipping boy are long gone,this is all new for Novak,so it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure from not only an improved Rafa but Murray too.

Michael Says:


Yeah. Agreed. Novak has now more competition to contend with in the form of Rafa and Andy. He has his hands full. But knowing who he is, I am sure he will turn a new leaf and rediscover the art of winning. Somehow, that 2011 invincible version of Novak seems distant at the moment. Well the coming battles the US Open and World Tour Finals will give us an indication of where Novak actually stands ?

grendel Says:


Only just seen your post. I did watch the Dimitrov match, but didn’t, I’m afraid, pick up the point you mention. I’m impressed with your eagle eyes!

I do remember that point against Djokovic. As I remember it, Nadal had lots of time – a little hard to believe he couldn’t have done a bit better with that shot. Still, I think you’re entitled to say you’ve made your point!

nitesh Says:

The only saving grace for djokovic is he is getting beaten up by some known players nadal murray hass isner dimitrov berdych

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