Novak Djokovic insists Rafael Nadal has and always will be ‘my main rival’ despite Carlos Alcaraz’s emergence
Carlos Alcaraz may be the “next biggest thing in tennis” and challenging for Grand Slams and the No 1 ranking, but for Novak Djokovic the one rivalry that remains top of his list is the one he has with Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic and Nadal, along with Roger Federer, have been the dominant figures on the ATP Tour the past two and a bit decade and their careers have run side-by-side.
Both made their breakthroughs in 2005 and while Nadal dominated the early exchanges both in terms of their head-to-head results, Grand Slams and other records, Djokovic has caught up with him and in some cases even moved ahead of the Spaniard.
They are both on 22 Grand Slams after Djokovic won the Australian Open in January while the Serbian leads their H2H 30-29. He is also ahead in terms of most titles won as he is on 93 with Nadal one behind while he has also spent a record 377 weeks at No 1 in the ATP Rankings compared to Nadal’s 209 weeks.
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However, with Alcaraz rising to the top of the ATP Rankings last year on the back of winning the US Open, many feel the teenager is now Djokovic’s rival.
Although full of praise for the 19-year-old Spaniard, Djokovic feels Nadal “will remain the biggest rival I ever had in my career”.
“Alcaraz is playing at a great level,” he told the media in Belgrade. I mean, especially after several months of absence from the tour with injuries that he was struggling with.
“It’s amazing that he is able to find the top level right away. That is actually a characteristic of a mature player. He doesn’t have so much experience, but he is showing maturity very early on, and with the way he handles himself on and off the court.
“He is a great guy and has a very good team of people around him. He deserves all his success and he is, I think, bringing some new, fresh energy into tennis, you know. He is a very dynamic player and personality and is very liked all around the world. So he deserves everything.
“I cannot call him my main rival. My main rival is still Nadal, you know, even though Alcaraz is obviously No 2 [in the world rankings]. He was No 1, he has won a Slam.
“He is arguably the next biggest thing in our sport or he is already there. I just feel the rivalry with Nadal is something that is difficult to eliminate just because someone is doing great things in the last year and a half, you know.
“Nadal has been the biggest rival, and he probably will remain the biggest rival I ever had in my career.”
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