How much did Novak Djokovic influence Rafael Nadal's career? The advent of the Serb from 2008 to today has certainly limited the victories of the Spaniard and those of Roger Federer. Djokovic was able to carve out an extraordinary space in the ATP Tour, entering in the Big Three with merit and becoming one of the strongest tennis players in the history of tennis.
The challenges between Nadal and Djokovic were epic: from the clay-courts of the French Open to the grass-courts of Wimbledon and on the hard-courts, of course. If on clay-courts Nadal leads 17-7, on grass-courts they are on 2-2 (but Nole defeated his rival in the 2011 Wimbledon final).
The challenge becomes very interesting on hard-courts. In fact, Djokovic put a limit on the ambitions of the Spaniard right on hard-courts, a surface on which Nadal can have more regrets. On hard-courts Djokovic leads 20-7. Especially in the ATP Masters 1000 Djokovic limited his rival.
In the Grand Slam Nadal leads 9-4 leads, in the finals they are on 4-4. On hard-courts certainly the advent of Djokovic influenced Nadal's career, limiting it. The Spaniard could surely have some more Majors in his collection, as well as some other ATP Masters 1000.
But above all he perhaps would have a very different number of victories on this surface. The final of the Australian Open 2019 witnessed this: Djokovic's supremacy over hard-courts did not leave any chances to his opponent, despite the notable improvements of Nadal during the years on fast surfaces.
Rafa still retains his advantage on clay-courts, a surface on which, with or without Djokovic, nothing would have changed due to the evolution of his career. On grass-courts Nole won their last two meetings, both at Wimbledon: the 2011 final and the 2018 semifinal. These are also two missed opportunities for Nadal, surpassed by his opponent's superiority on this surface.