Novak Djokovic has had to deal with a lot of tough times over the past few months. Due to his choice not to get vaccinated against Coronavirus, the world number 1 was unable to defend the title at the Australian Open and suffered serious damage to his image.
As if that were not enough, the Serbian champion had to watch helplessly the triumph of his historic rival Rafael Nadal in Melbourne Park. Thanks to that success, the Iberian overtook Roger Federer and Djokovic himself in the all-time rankings of the Majors.
Rafa also became the fourth man in history to have won all Grand Slams at least twice (along with Djokovic, Rod Laver and Roy Emerson). Nole will try to make up for it at Roland Garros, where he will be called upon to defend the title he won last year.
Interviewed by the ATP website before the start of the Mutua Madrid Open, the 34-year-old from Belgrade recalled the epic semifinal against Nadal at the Caja Magica in 2009. The Majorcan won with a score of 3-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (9) after 4 hours and 3 minutes, in what remains the longest game in the history of the Masters 1000.
Djokovic had a decent run in Belgrade
"It was an incredible match, had some match points. We were rallying in one of those match points, and he hit an incredible inside-in forehand winner on the line. It always is a great battle with Rafa, particularly playing him here in his home, in his home country Spain, on his favourite surface clay.
It was the closest I got to beating him on clay at that point" - Novak Djokovic stated. The Serb beat Nadal in straight sets in the 2011 Madrid final before repeating the feat a week later in the Italian capital. Djokovic added: "I think I had my first win on clay against him in 2011.
But that match (2009 Madrid) was extraordinary. We played something like three tiebreaks. I don't exactly remember the scoreline, but every set was close. And then I started to believe that I could win against him on clay. Till that point, he was dominating our matchups."
Novak Djokovic had a decent run in the recently concluded Serbia Open in his native country. The 20-time Grand Slam champion made it to the finals before losing out to Andrey Rublev in the title clash. However, in the earlier rounds, he rejoiced the home crowd by putting on an incredible display of grit and determination. He came from behind in each of the matches to make it to the summit clash.