Novak Djokovic Tabs Rafael Nadal As The Player To Beat On Clay
by Tom Gainey | May 3rd, 2016, 10:04 am

Novak Djokovic is the runaway world No. 1, but the Serb says when it comes to clay there’s only one man to beat. And that man is Rafael Nadal who enters Madrid on a blazing hot 10-match win streak after titles last month in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

“I think Rafa is everybody’s main rival on clay courts because of his history on this surface and the results that he had throughout his career that deservedly put him as always I think one of the top or probably the top favorites on any clay court event as a matter of fact,” Djokovic said.

“Of course, he did not have 2015 clay court season the way we used to see him play on a very high level. It was not up to his standard. This year he’s showing already much higher quality of tennis and performance. He really played terrific both in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona.

“I’m sure he’s very motivated to do well here in Madrid and continue to do well on his favorite surface. He’s definitely the player to beat.”

Djokovic leads Nadal 25-23 winning the last six and 13 straight sets including a drubbing last year in the French Open quarterfinals.

Later this month, Djokovic resumes his quest for a first French Open title. The 2011 champion plays Wednesday in Madrid against either Nicolas Almagro or Borna Coric.

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26 Comments for Novak Djokovic Tabs Rafael Nadal As The Player To Beat On Clay

madmax Says:

Novak is the man to beat. I don’t think that anyone could even deny that.

Rafa is certainly playing well, but with Novak at the helm once more, I think Rafa will do his very best, but not much more than that. Of course, I could be wrong.

These mind games Novak. These mind games. :-)

chrisford1 Says:

It would be nice if the article mentioned that his interview with Marca came after Djokovic won the Marca Leyenda award for being a sports legend. He is the 1st tennis player to win since Rafa Nadal won it 8 years ago. And how he devoted much of his eloquent interview to praising Rafa.

Novak said when he came up, he looked up to Rafa as a model. How he was impressed that Nadal had won his 1st professional match at 15 and become a force. Showing Djokovic, who also rocketed up the ratings, that things were all possible for him if he worked and improved, shooting for Rafa’s level.

Then he was asked about his rivalry with Nadal, about which he said, ‘He beat me many times, then I did and vice versa. I beat him many times in the last year-and-a-half but it does not mean I’m confident of beating him. On the contrary, against him I am more focused, I play with more intensity because be tries something new to clash my game. I define my matches against him as something beautiful and nice and sometimes special. It’s a privilege facing him many times because he is a legend of our sport. The rivalry with Rafa helped me to become who I am now.’

Interesting remarks too, on pressure and the French Open:

‘We always speak about the word pressure as something negative but I take this pressure as something positive. When you feel pressure at these levels, it means that you are doing things well in your job and the same means at Roland Garros. Obviously I want to win, it’s clear that it’s in my mind but If I do not win this year and next year too and I end my career without winning it, I would not have had a disastrous career.’

senorita Says:

It would be nice if Djoko’s fans had as much respect for Rafa and he has.

All this talk about Rafa losing to Djoker, people forget that after all that they are almost level pegging in their h2h so Djoko had a lot of ground to make up.

jane Says:

senorita, i think most of us novak fans at this site do respect nadal. just as most of the rafa fans respect novak, or so i should hope. that’s why none of us nole fans were “counting out” rafa even when some rafa fans were; we know what a formidable opponent he is, and also how many comebacks he’s had during his career. he’s also 5 years younger than fed, so if fed can play as well as he did in 2014-15, i always figured rafa would have a few more good runs in him. all that said, more than anything i’d love for novak to win th french open!! :)

Okiegal Says:

As a Rafa fan, I have the utmost respect for Novak and I have sang his praises many many times…..but I’m not sure anybody paid any attention to me…..they usually don’t! Lol

Rick Says:

Warinka could thumps Djokovic on clay. And so are other guys.

Rick Says:

On clay Jokervic is another player. “Boom Boom” Becker couldn’t help him on clay either.

Rick Says:

If Nole runs into the guy who beat him at Monte Carlo in the early round of the French. He could be in serious trouble. He could probably wins in 5 sets. Then later, get himself really tired when playing other guys like Warinka or Murray. Murray took Nole to 5 sets last year.

Rick Says:

Becker’s coaching for Nole. It will only be an asset for him, when he is playing on grass or hardcourts. But on clay, Becker is a liability for Nole.

Rick Says:

Nole just couldn’t dominate other players like he does for indoor and hardcourts. If Murray wants to beat him, he has a very good chance on clay. And Warinka’s backhand is so lethal for Nole on clay, too.

Wog Boy Says:

Anything else Rick? Very insightful posts, agree, that “Warinka” is one hell of the player that gives Nole lots of problems, just check there head to head, 21:4….for Nole..

Wog Boy Says:

^*^ and 5:2 on clay in Noles favor, really “Warinka” has been trouble for Nole on clay..

jane Says:

dear okie – i’ve paid attention, and much appreciated indeed. :)

Okiegal Says:

@Jane…..Thanks….I will say it again…..what he has accomplished in the last yrs of his career is simply amazing. He’s a tough one all right….even if he did lose his first match at MC…..u know what they say…”crap” happens. He’s still the one to beat atm.

Michael Says:

Novak is dead right and Rafa is really the man to beat on Clay.

With lack of confidence issues behind him especially after his back to back wins at Montecarlo and Barcelona, Rafa has rejunevated himself with considerable strength and raring to go on the back stage. But, even now, it would be only a matter of conjecture as how he would fare against Novak who has always been his Nemesis with big match up problems.

I think the results of Madrid and Rome will provide us with an insight as to who will be the favourite at Rolland Garros and lead from the front.

J-Kath Says:

I presume you’ve all read the French Open offices and home of Director have been raided….evidently the reasons are related to fraudulent practices……

Green Lady Says:

I also have a lot of respect for Novak and his achievements, he will probably go on to be the best ever who knows, but i agree with Senorita, theres been alot of trash talking about Rafa, and posters even take it to personal level ….

ulysses Says:

I’m rooting for Coric as he reminds me of a Hewitt, except Hew had a natural ability to hit very intelligent shots to mask his lack of firepower (you needed to watch Hewitt live to understand this, TV doesn’t pick it up). Unfortunately, Coric, in my view, has Hewitt’s same limitations — needs to work too hard for points — without the benefit of a incredible spin (like Nadal, like Thiem) which counteracts that deficiency to an extent.

The advantages accruing from Novak’s physique is not highlighted enough. Again, TV doesn’t capture this well, but the guy seems taller than the listed 6″2 if you see him in person and his body does some real weird contortions on court which great enable reach and recovery (Monfils has this ability too but he’s nearing 6″5 so it’s just weird). Coric on the other hand is very stiff, more diminutive and I actually think tennis has evolved from Hewitt-like footspeed to Djokovic-like footspeed+flexibility if one is gonna be a counterpuncher. I just don’t see his potential being as lofty as the hype portends. But if anyone can prove this wrong, it’s a guy with the drive like Coric. Impossible belief in himself.

Zverev, Thiem, Tiafoe, Kyrgios. I’d be more inclined elevate those long-term. Kyrgios suffers from mental exhaustion after 2 matches, and that’s the only thing that holds him back. Once he relaxes a little and matures — hopefully — his potential is on par with Zverev’s IMO.

SG1 Says:

Clay plays right into Novak’s strengths. Despite some of Novak’s gamesmanship, he is the clear favorite and the pressure is on him to get the job done at RG. Federer and Rafa have completed their career grand slam. Novak hasn’t. He needs to find a way to win at RG. He’s one of best clay court players out there. Now he has to show it and close the deal.

SG1 Says:

There are only two players in the field that can beat an in-form Novak. One is still getting back into the groove due to wrist problems. The other guy won RG last year. I just don’t see Rafa beating Novak though I think he will make the match more competitive than last year if they do run into one another. Sure hope they’re on opposite ends of the draw.

jane Says:

sg1, delpo’s record is not great vs novak so i am not sure i agree. novak has an 11-3 h2h, and he played delpo at his best many/most of those matches. even in 2009, on clay, when delpo reached the FO semis and psuhed fed to 5 sets, novak beat him in rome in straights. i think rafa has better chances than jmdp, certainly.

gl, yes that’s true. as i said “most” novak fans, and then same goes for most rafa fans, because we both know some trash talk novak too. it’s inevitable, with rivals, methinks. the good thing is that most of us are respectful.

Green Lady Says:

Jane thanks, as long as you know i dont hate Novak, and i have alot of respect for his achievements, and as you know ive defended him many times, when it comes to Rafa, i just get irritated with the slurs, that even come about his private life and sexuality, just because it happens that hes not married ….

Green Lady Says:

IMO Delpo is still a million miles away from challenging the top players, and GS titles, and Rafa aint beaten Novak or got a set of Novak in 3 years, and close setters mean doodle squat, lets call a spade a spade ….

jane Says:

definitely gl; i know! :)

J-Kath Says:

GL: I am in complete agreement with your Delpo comments. He’s a great, likeable guy and as such its a great pity about his 2-years absence. However, the assumption that he would have been greater than XYZ has no basis – how anyone can say so with such certainty bewilders me. You could say the same about Soderling.

Also a number of the current top guys also suffered injuries which affected their performance and disadvantaged them for approximately the same time, and still does. Delpo says he’s only 27. Does he even understand what that means against not only players younger than him, or a couple of years older than him?

Yes, let’s call a spade a spade.

Green Lady Says:

Thanks J-Kath im always flabbergasted when anyone takes any notice let alone agrees with me, so cheers for that ….

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