When Did Novak Djokovic Last Defeat Rafael Nadal on Clay?

Published 05/16/2021, 7:53 AM EDT
Novak Djokovic of Serbia shakes hands with Rafael Nadal of Spain after winning the match point during their final singles match daring day 10 of the ATP Cup at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)


They have found themselves on the opposite ends of a tennis court as many as 56 times, being involved in many absorbing battles over the years. While Novak Djokovic holds a slender career head-to-head lead of 29-27 over Rafael Nadal, there are many interesting subplots to their history if one observes carefully.

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While the Serb tops the overall tally between them, a break up of their record on individual surfaces shows that the two have had a fair share of wins against each other on their favored turfs, to the extent of imposing themselves and opening up a healthy lead.

Records of favorite surfaces tells a story

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Djokovic, who reaffirmed his status as the champion of hard courts with his ninth career Australian Open title this year, holds a commanding career head-to-head lead of 20-7 over Nadal on concrete.

The ‘King of Clay’ has held his own against the current World No.1 on his favored surface, with a win/loss record of 18-7 on dirt. On grass, however, they are tied at 2-2.

Their last meeting on clay came at the final of last year’s French Open, which the Spaniard won in straight sets to lift an unprecedented 13th career crown at Roland-Garros.

Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – October 11, 2020, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and Spain’s Rafael Nadal during the final REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal in the Rome QF in 2016

Djokovic’s last victory over Nadal on red soil was in the quarter-finals at Rome in 2016. The Serb progressed to the final that year only to go down to three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray in the title clash.

Going into the championship clash at the Italian capital on Sunday, it is Nadal who will have history on his side as he holds a 5-3 career lead over the Serbian in eight head-to-head clashes in Rome.

The nine-time Rome champion will draw further comfort from his recent history against the 18-time Grand Slam champion at the Foro Italico as he came out on the winning end of both their previous two encounters in 2019 and 2018.

However, the Serb will go into the final this year as the defending champion, has arguably had more career wins over Nadal than anyone else and knows how to get the measure of the champion on clay.

Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are characterized by their mental strength

But there’s a fear that the emotional roller-coaster of two epic wins and close to five hours on court could take a toll on Djokovic and put Nadal slightly ahead in the final.

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However, the champions, as they have shown through numerous performances over the years, have the mental strength and iron will to overcome the gravest of physical odds.

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So, expect another nerve-jangling, grandstand finish as the two cross swords again in the ancient city.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

970 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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