Rafael Nadal’s rivalry with Novak Djokovic is the biggest in the history of men’s tennis, claims Eurosport expert Alex Corretja.
The pair have had a spree of titanic tussles since their first meeting at the 2006 French Open and, despite having a combined age of 70, remain the two most feared competitors on the circuit.
They have met a record 58 times with Djokovic leading the head-to-head 30-28, although the record is flipped 7-2 in Nadal’s favour on the hallowed red dirt at Roland-Garros.
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Men’s tennis has been blessed with a host of fantastic rivalries through the years, including Roger Federer-Nadal, Ivan Lendl-John McEnroe and Boris Becker-Stefan Edberg, but Corretja believes one duel stands above the rest.
“I think we should consider this the biggest one, even if you like Federer-Nadal or McEnroe-Borg, Edberg-Becker the most,” he said ahead of the Nadal and Djokovic’s latest meeting in the French Open quarter-finals on Tuesday evening.
“Djokovic-Nadal, both of them are fighters, they always give 100% and you know that until the match is over they can come back. It’s so difficult to win points.
“If you’re Rafa, you like to move your opponent from side to side. If you’re Novak, you’re going to hang in there, mix up your game, change it up down the line, serve well, drop shots.
“Everything will happen in this match and especially on clay, where they need to suffer more to usual and be more patient than on grass or hard courts, where they can maybe find easier winners.”
Nadal clinched his 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, with Djokovic seeking to match that haul by defending his title in Paris.
The Spaniard battled into the last eight with a tough five-set win over Felix Auger-Aliassime, while Djokovic continued his flawless start with another straight sets win over clay-court specialist Diego Schwartzman.
But Corretja believes that Nadal will benefit from having a tough encounter in the legs, given he arrived in Paris on the back of another injury lay-off.
“I think it was very good for Rafa to not lose any sets at the beginning of the tournament,” said Corretja.
“I think it was also very good for him to suffer against Felix because he’s going to be more ready for tonight.
“If you haven’t played for so long on clay, you come here and win in straight sets and all of a sudden you face a beast, Novak Djokovic, maybe you’re not ready for that.
“He went through tough moments against Felix the other day and I think it will be better for Rafa. He had time to recover, 48 hours, and I think it was good for him because he didn’t play too matches on clay, at least he found his rhythm against Felix.”

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