The return of Novak Djokovic has broken the duopoly of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but can the Serbian make Nadal's life difficult on clay? This year the season was again dominated by the Mallorcan. At the same time, Nole was giving the first signs of awakening from hibernation.
Nadal won four tournaments on clay this year: the Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo and Rome, the ATP 500 in Barcelona, and the French Open. His opponents in the final were Kei Nishikori, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and, at the Roland Garros Dominic Thiem.
His score on clay this year is impressive: 24 wins and only one loss. In 25 challenges, he only gave to his opponents five sets. At the same time, Djokovic's clay results were full of ups and downs; good performances and unpredictable defeats.
In Monte Carlo, the Serb lost in the pre-quarter-final against Dominic Thiem while in Barcelona, he lost in the first round against Martin Klizan. At the Mutua Madrid Open, Nole was eliminated in the second round by Kyle Edmund while in Rome, he reached the semi-finals, where he was defeated by Nadal.
Unforgettable, however, was the defeat of the Serb at the French Open against Marco Cecchinato. However, Djokovic – even at the height of his form – has only defeated Nadal once at the French Open, in 2015. Can he get another win over the Spaniard if, and when, they play each other in Paris next? Of course, much will depend on Rafa's health which brings us back to the start of the 2019 season.
We could see Nadal and Djokovic restart their rivalry in Australia itself which would give us an indication how the wind swings for each. Will Djokovic come out on top again, or will Nadal avenge his past losses to the Serbian? ALSO READ: Doping, prevention and controls: is it working better?