Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have played 57 times against each other, forging the greatest Open era rivalry that has been going on for 15 years. Their first meeting came at Roland Garros 2006, and they are projected to meet in Paris again next week if they both win five matches and enter the semis.
Novak has beaten Rafa 29 times and suffered 28 losses, celebrating against the Spaniard in 14 of the last 20 encounters since Beijing 2013. Since Madrid 2017, Nadal has won all five meetings against Djokovic on clay, regaining confidence on his beloved surface to remain in touch with the Serb.
Speaking about his negative streak versus Rafa on clay, Novak said that you have to bring your A-game to stand a chance against Rafa on clay, something he couldn't do in the last couple of years. A few weeks ago in Rome, Nadal defeated Djokovic in the final after almost three hours, with the Serb overpowering the Spaniard in set number two before losing ground in the decider.
Novak will try to use that match as a solid base ahead of their potential clash in Paris, saying he wasn't far from Nadal's level and hoping for a different outcome at Roland Garros. Novak and Rafa will kick off their campaigns on Tuesday.
Novak Djokovic will try to end the losing streak against Rafael Nadal on clay.
"The win in Belgrade gave me excellent preparation. I'm in a good state of mind and body, striking the ball well. Now it's really about just taking step by step, being in the present moment and building the form to play better and better as the tournament progresses.
When you speak about Rafa, you know that he's always going to give you his best on any surface. He's always going to produce some high-quality tennis, particularly on clay. That's his most preferred surface and where he's always at his best.
Record-wise, I lost the last five matches on clay against Rafa; we had some close battles, and he dominated the others. I couldn't match his level, and it's always high when he plays on clay; if you can't respond in the same way, you don't stand a chance against him.
I know there's a build-up potentially for that match-up in the semi-final, but there are many obstacles to overcome before that. If we get there, of course, I know what is expected of me and what I need to do. Last year, I had a great run at Roland Garros, but he played fantastic tennis in the final and I couldn't do much.
Hopefully, if I get a chance to play him again in Paris, the level of my tennis will be different. For example, we pushed each other to the limits in Rome a few weeks ago, staying in touch until the last point. That match gives me good feelings ahead of our potential clash here in Paris. Still, we both have to stay focused only on our next match," Novak Djokovic said.