The Free Press, Mankato, MN


September 12, 2013

Nadal vs. Djokovic has now become THE RIVALRY

Nadal leads head-to-head series, 22-15


He’s gone back and watched video of that match.

“Amazing points in that set. Very long rallies. (You can’t) hear the ball, because the crowd is crazy in a lot of points. So that means that was very high quality,” Nadal said.

As well as he played, he realized, Djokovic was better then.

“I had to wait a little bit ... (for him to) lose confidence or lose something in his game,” Nadal said.

Their next match was the Australian Open final in January 2012, and Djokovic won that one, too.

Except this time, they played five sets stretched over nearly six hours, making it the longest Grand Slam title match in history.

It was a defeat but, Nadal said Monday, “I finished that match in Australia very happy, because another time I was able to change the dynamic.”

The next time they played, about three months later in the final at Monte Carlo, Nadal won in straight sets.

He was back on the right path, knowing that one key for him was to play closer to the baseline and look to attack more when possible.

“After that victory, mentally, you feel more confident when you come back on court against him,” Nadal said.

Part of what makes their rivalry special is the ability to spur each other. Nadal was better at the start of their careers. Djokovic did what he needed to do to edge ahead. Then Nadal regained the upper hand. Together, they have won 12 of the past 15 major titles.

In the Open era, which began in 1968, no two men have played each other as many times as this pair. Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe are next with 36; Nadal and Roger Federer have 31 meetings.

“You just feel that there is the last drop of energy that you need to use in order to win the point. Sometimes I was winning those points; sometimes him,” Djokovic said. “It’s what we do when we play against each other, always pushing each other to the limit. That’s the beauty of our matches and our rivalry, I guess, in the end.”

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