As Rafael Nadal hoisted up his 7th French Open trophy and 11th Grand Slam title of his career, the questions rising weren’t just about whether Novak Djokovic will still be number one by the end of the year and if he’ll beat Nadal at Wimbledon and the US Open. There’s also the fact that Djokovic vs Nadal is turning into a historic rivalry.
Novak Djokovic himself thinks that while the Federer – Nadal is still the greatest in Tennis and probably the history of the sport, he thinks that his rivalry with Rafa can become the number one of all time, considering the two have met in the last four Grand Slam finals, with no one looking really close to stopping their streak.
Obviously Federer and Nadal have still, I think, the biggest rivalry in the sport. Because they have been at the top for so many years, they have been so dominant. I mean, I just joined that rivalry, I think, you know, just recently, couple years ago.
We are very young, and we played over 30 times against each other, and hopefully we can have many more battles in the next years. We’re attracting a lot of attention to men’s tennis because we have, you know, these two great players, and Murray, myself, and we really have some great players, some charismatic players, a lot of personalities.
his is good for tennis. It’s beautiful. These matches make you feel like all the work that you put into it is worth it, you’re living for this moment to play finals of any grand slam, and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
There’s still something more special about Federer meeting Nadal, although it’s happened, in a final of a Grand Slam, only once since the 2009 Australian Open Final. Novak Djokovic’s rise in 2011 has turned the sport into a two man show, with both of them sharing the last nine grand slam titles, 4 to Djokovic and 5 to Nadal.
The fact that they’re of similar age (Nadal 26, Djokovic 25), unlike Roger Federer, who will be turning 31 after the next Wimbledon and has been on the ATP tour since 1998, makes it clear why it’s reasonable to think their rivalry will surpass the Classic Nadal – Federer. Maybe it already has, facing each other 33 times, compared with Nadal – Federer meeting 29 times.
But we’re here for more than lore and rivalries. We’re about predicting the future, and trying to figure out where the titles will go. Despite losing to Nadal in their last three meetings, all on clay, all in tournament finals, Novak Djokovic has managed to hang on to his number one spot against the surging Nadal. If Djokovic manages to reach the next Wimbledon finals, win or lose to Nadal (assuming he gets there), the top spot in the world is his.
But titles mean more than rankings. Just look at the WTA, which sometimes seems to have no bearing on the true power struggle in the Women’s tour. In the men’s department it seems to be working better in accurately depicting the current status of each player. The favorites keep on winning the tournaments.
Novak Djokovic will take a rest before Wimbledon. Considering both players’ performances on hard courts this season, I’ll have to give Djokovic the favorite tag as they head onto the Grass. Nadal didn’t impress at Miami or at Indian Wells. His dominance on clay is almost taken for granted, but winning with such ease and dominance (only one dropped set in the French Open) is harder on fast courts.
Nadal will be playing in Halle, along with Roger Federer, to adjust himself to the changing pace. If he does win in Halle, we’ll have to reconsider about labeling the favorite. If Federer wins there? It wouldn’t be a surprise, but he’s still the underdog heading in to London. He’s just a step behind most of the time when considering Djokovic and Nadal, no matter what the court.
The biggest thing for Nadal is returning the mental edge he once had over, well, everyone. He broke the Djokovic streak against him and probably has the upper hand against the two in terms of the psychological battle. That feeling that players get against him is back – When he focused and healthy, it’s nearly impossible to take a point away from him and impossible to hit winners against him.
With that in mind, Djokovic heads off to a little break and preparation, hoping that the Rafael Nadal of the last two months doesn’t show at Wimbledon.