Novak Djokovic shares his major wish for himself and for 'legend' Rafael Nadal

Djokovic has nothing but respect and appreciation for Nadal.

by Dzevad Mesic
Novak Djokovic shares his major wish for himself and for 'legend' Rafael Nadal
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Novak Djokovic showed some major respect for Rafael Nadal after winning his fifth Laureus Sportsman of the Year award as the Serb empathized with the Spaniard and expressed hope to see him on the court a bit more and at least play him one more time before his retirement. 

On Monday, world No. 1 Djokovic was in Madrid for the Laureus World Sports Award. After putting up an absolutely astonishing season in 2023 at the age of 36, Djokovic was considered the top favorite for the Laureus Sportsman of the Year and he ended up claiming the award for the fifth time and equalling Roger Federer's record. 

But after having his 2023 season recognized in a major way, Djokovic took a moment to send some support to Nadal, who has had a very rough time with injuries over the last 16 months. After not playing any tournaments in 2023 after the Australian Open, Nadal returned in Brisbane in the first week of 2024 but then didn't play again until last week. 

Djokovic, who owns a 30-29 head-to-head against Nadal and considers him his biggest rival, hasn't played the Spaniard since the 2022 French Open and he hopes they will have their 60th meeting before the 37-year-old Spaniard likely retires this year.

"I have a lot of respect for a legend like him, with whom I hope to be able to play at least one more time before he retires. I have a lot of respect for Rafa, he is a good person and a legend of our sport, he is my most important rival. In Australia, I said I hoped to see him in one or two tournaments and I hope to do that," Djokovic said at the Laureus World Sports Award in Madrid.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal © Getty Images Sport - Scott Barbour

Djokovic on his rough season

After having one of his most dominant seasons in 2023, Djokovic hasn't played to his level and standard so far this year. In Monte Carlo two weeks ago, Djokovic showed some promising signs and made the semifinal but then picked up another surprising loss in 2024 after falling short to Casper Ruud in a three-setter. 

Reflecting on his 2024 season which also includes a disappointing Australian Open semifinal loss to Jannik Sinner and a shock Indian Wells Masters third-round loss to Luca Nardi, Djokovic suggests that even he is surprised with how his season has gone so far. But Djokovic remains hopeful that he can reach his peak when the time comes for the French Open.

"This year has been a bit different for me - the start. Still finding the best level of tennis and hopefully that can come in Roland Garros," Djokovic said.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

During the weekend, Djokovic announced that he would not be playing at this week's Madrid Masters. Instead, Djokovic plans to keep practicing and return to action at the Rome Masters, which starts on May 8th.

The Paris Olympics are Djokovic's major target

When announcing his Madrid withdrawal, Djokovic pretty openly admitted that his main focus was on the French Open, the Paris Olympics, Wimbledon and the US Open. 

During the Laureus event in Madrid, Djokovic once again underlined how important the Paris Olympics will be to him since an Olympic gold medal is the only thing missing in his collection. 

"Well, I'm thinking about it and I, I think it is possible if I don't think it's possible, I probably would not be playing Olympic Games. So, you know, you always have to believe that everything is possible in life. And the Olympic Games are the oldest and most prestigious sporting events in the history of the sport. It's a huge honor to be representing Serbia in the Olympic Games," Djokovic explained.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

While detailing how determined he was on winning this year's Paris Olympics, Djokovic - who turns 37 next month - hinted he may still be around when the time comes for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. 

"So I hope I can be healthy and fit and I hope I can play my best tennis because at the end of the day, who knows if I get another chance to play the Olympic games. They only come every four years. I said recently that I would really want to play at least 'till LA Olympic Games, but you never know, you know at this stage what can happen or how far I can go. So I'll try to use this opportunity as best possible," Djokovic said.

After a slow start to the season and often hearing or reading about claims that he is "done," Djokovic will certainly enter the French Open looking to shut down those talks and prove that he is still the guy.

Novak Djokovic Rafael Nadal