Two young guns met in the 2006 Roland Garros semi-final. They were Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, playing their first encounter on the Tour. Sixteen years later, Novak and Rafa stand on the record-breaking 59 duels, setting the Open era record that will take some beating in the future.
Born within a year, two great rivals have pushed each other to the limits in numerous thrilling encounters, setting their eyes on the biggest trophies and chasing Roger Federer. Nadal and Djokovic will finish the current season with more Major titles than the Swiss for the first time, staying competitive at 36 and 35 and stealing notable titles from the young guns.
Asked about the most significant rival in his recent interviews, Novak stated it's still Rafa, despite having better-ranked players in front of them. Djokovic and Nadal did not enjoy a perfect season in terms of their schedules and form, but they still claimed three out of four Major titles to top the charts!
Novak Djokovic sees Rafael Nadal as his greatest rival.
Due to his vaccination status, Novak missed the Australian Open and the US Open on his favorite hard court. The Serb lost to Nadal in the Roland Garros quarter-final and had his only chance for a Major crown in the current season at Wimbledon.
Djokovic produced his grass-court magic again and lifted his seventh All England Club title, beating Nick Kyrgios in the title clash in four sets. On the other hand, Nadal returned to action after missing the second part of 2021 due to a foot injury.
The Spaniard made a perfect start in 2022, winning the opening 20 matches and securing his second Australian Open title, the first in 13 years! Rafa fractured his rib in Indian Wells and missed Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Returning in May without form, Nadal suffered heavy losses in Madrid and Rome and gathered dark clouds over his Roland Garros chances.
Despite ongoing foot pain that required injections before every match, Rafa defeated Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Casper Ruud for his 14th Parisian crown. The Spaniard experienced an abdominal injury at Wimbledon, which cost him a better result at two Majors, withdrawing in London and suffering the fourth-round loss in New York.
Djokovic and Nadal met once in 2022, and the Spaniard toppled the Serb 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 in four hours and 12 minutes in the Roland Garros quarter-final. Rafa scored his 29th victory over Novak and remained on the title course after an incredible battle.
Djokovic made a slow start and recovered his game in the second set. The Spaniard dominated the third set, and the Serb made sure to play better in the fourth. Novak missed set points behind the initial shot, lost serve and fell in the tie break to lose the title and propel Rafa into the semis.