Rafael Nadal is in a disadvantage in his head-to-head with Novak Djokovic, trailing 25-28 The Serb is also undermining the position of the Spaniard in the all-time Slam ranking, with Rafa at 17 and Nole at 15.
But, the most interesting thing about this rivalry is the difference in performances in the challenges between the two for each surface. In fact, Nadal has not beaten Djokovic on grass and hard courts from the US Open 2013 final.
In that year, Rafa also defeated his rival at the Rogers Cup. But, from 2013 onwards, the hard courts and grass were dominated by the Serb. In fact, Djokovic has defeated Nadal in all the hard court and grass challenges, for a total of nine wins (eight on hard, one on grass).
In career, Nole leads the challenges on hard courts (19-7), while Nadal leads the matches on clay (16-7). On grass, there is a perfect balance (2-2). Not only that, because Djokovic was able to beat the Spaniard five times on clay, from 2013 forward.
These data make us reflect. Since 2014, Nadal has beaten the world no.1 only on clay. Despite the fact that Mallorcan has achieved noticeable improvements on grass and hard courts, especially by perfectly adapting his tennis to the unfavorable playing conditions, it is clear that to beat Djokovic outside the clay now serves a physical and, above all, a mental condition that Nadal now has not towards the rival.
Right now, on grass and hard courts, Nadal could beat anyone except Djokovic, who is more complete and more adaptable than the Spaniard on hard and on grass. However, in the final of the Australian Open 2019, the gap seemed mental rather than physical, technical and tactical.
Nadal is going through a moment in his career where he is psychologically suffering the matches against the Serb. Numbers in hand, from 2013 onwards, in the head-to-head, Djokovic won 14 matches, Nadal only six.
With the start of the next clay swing, Rafa will try to reduce the gap, even if the propensity to the adaptability of Djokovic makes it a fearsome rival even on his beloved clay. The psychological situation could be completely overturned at the French Open, where for years the Serb suffered psychologically the strength of the rival.
In fact, in seven matches played in Paris, Nadal won six times, two of which came in the final. It will be interesting to see how this rivalry and these statistics will increase or decrease during the next clay season. Meanwhile, Nole has increased the gap between the two.