Rafael Nadal comments on Novak Djokovic claiming he once felt intimidated by Spaniard

Djokovic recently claimed that Nadal's pre-match routine at the French Open once made him feel intimidated.

by Dzevad Mesic
Rafael Nadal comments on Novak Djokovic claiming he once felt intimidated by Spaniard
© Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde

Rafael Nadal insists it was "never" his intention to intimidate Novak Djokovic after the Serb stunningly confessed that he used to be intimidated by the Spaniard early in his career. 

In 2006, Djokovic and Nadal had their first French Open meeting. That year, Nadal had a 6-4 6-4 lead over Djokovic when the Serb retired due to injury. In the next two years, the two met again at Roland Garros as Nadal claimed back-to-back French Open semifinal wins over Djokovic in 2007 and 2008.

In a recent appearance on 60 Minutes on CBS News, Djokovic revealed that he was intimidated by Nadal when sharing the locker room with him at Roland Garros early in his career. Explaining why, Djokovic said that Nadal was jumping around, doing sprints, and having his music turned up so loud that he could hear what the Spaniard was listening to. 

"It was never, never, never my intention. I warm up like this. I try to be prepared and ready to go, and I exercise, nothing more. I haven't heard what he said, honestly," Nadal told El Pais.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

Nadal is Djokovic's biggest rival

Djokovic, 36, and 37-year-old Nadal have created one of the most iconic and greatest tennis rivalries. So far, the two have played against each other 59 times and Djokovic owns a 30-29 head-to-head against Nadal. Over the years, Djokovic has several times declared Nadal as his "biggest rival."

When they were just starting, it was a pretty one-sided head-to-head as Nadal was regularly beating Djokovic. After beating Djokovic in the 2009 Madrid semifinal, Nadal improved to 14-4 against Djokovic. Since then, Djokovic has completely turned around his head-to-head against Nadal. 

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal© Getty Images Sport - Darrian Traynor

Mostly due to Nadal's injuries, the two haven't played since the 2022 French Open quarterfinal, when the Spaniard beat Djokovic en route to winning his 14th title at Roland Garros. When Nadal confirmed his 2024 comeback, Djokovic said he would like to meet the Spaniard at least one more time and specifically mentioned that he would like to play his biggest rival at Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal Novak Djokovic French Open