Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal – The Greatest Rivalry Explained in Numbers

Published 12/30/2019, 12:30 AM EST


Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic is the most prolific and enduring rivalry of the tennis Open Era. The ‘Djokodal’ rivalry is widely considered to be one of the greatest rivalries in the history of the sport. The battles between the two goliaths have taken tennis to a whole new level.

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Novak Djokovic is on a path to eclipse Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as he has forced the latter two in a three-way tie against each other.

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Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal Head-to-Head

The Serbian is not just ahead of the Mallorcan in their head-to-head but also presides Nadal in mental strength when the two play against each other. Djokovic lets things go, often because he has a very light attitude. This is one of the reasons that Novak is dominating their head-to-head 22-10 since 2011.

The two have faced each other 55 times with Djokovic leading 29–26. The duo has played some memorable matches in the past 14 years. The first-ever meeting between the two occurred at the 2006 French Open in the quarterfinals, where Nadal prevailed after Djokovic retired with an injury in the third set.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion leads 15–11 in finals. Of these matches, 15 have been in Grand Slams with Nadal leading 9–6. Nadal leads 6–1 at the French Open and 2–1 at the US Open, while Djokovic leads 2-0 at the Australian Open and 2–1 at Wimbledon.

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Nadal vs Djokovic head-to-head records by surfaces

Of their 55 matches, 27 have been on hard courts, 24 have been on clay, and 4 have been on grass. Nadal leads on clay (17–7), while Djokovic has the edge on hard courts (20-7). They are tied on grass (2-2).

Nadal vs Djokovic Rivalry Epic meetings

In the Grand Slam tournaments, Nadal holds a superior head-to-head record of 9-6. Their 15 matches on the major courts include a few incredible matches in the history of tennis.

2010 US Open Final

At the 2010 US Open finals, Nadal was aiming to complete his Golden Career Slam. The Spaniard clinched the title after defeating Djokovic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. He became the fourth man in the Open Era to complete a Career Grand Slam and the second man in the open era to complete a Career Golden Slam. The scoreline hardly reflected the depth and quality of the match that more closely resembled a heavyweight boxing match.

2011 Wimbledon Championships Final

In the 2011 Wimbledon Championships final, Djokovic was looking for his maiden championships title. Nadal was the favorite to win the tournament as he was on a 20-match winning streak at the All England Club despite Djokovic coming into the match with four finals victories over his opponent. Novak answered the critics with a four-set victory and became the first Serbian man to win Wimbledon. He also overtook Nadal for the No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career.

2011 US Open Final

In the rematch of the 2010 US Open final, Nadal entered the match as the defending champion but Djokovic had defeated Nadal in the past five finals. As expected, in a match lasting 4 hours and 10 minutes, Djokovic defeated Nadal for a sixth consecutive finals victory over his rival. With this victory, Djokovic became the sixth man in the open era to win three of the four majors in the same year.

2012 Australian Open Final

This match was the third straight Grand Slam final between Djokovic and Nadal. It was the longest Grand Slam final in history with Djokovic prevailing 7–5 in the fifth set in 5 hours 53 minutes. Many tennis legends and tennis pundits put this match on the top of the greatest match of all-time list. With the win, Djokovic brought his winning streak against Nadal to seven, all of which were in finals with three being Grand Slam finals.

2012 French Open Final

This match was the fourth straight major final between Djokovic and Nadal. There were several delays due to the erratic rain, but none lasting more than an hour. With Nadal leading by two sets to one, and Djokovic leading 2–1 with a break up in the fourth set, the match was suspended due to rain. Djokovic had gained the momentum, having won eight games in a row prior to the suspension of the match. However, Nadal responded well as he took the fourth set, and ultimately the match.

2018 Wimbledon Championship Semifinal

Djokovic defeated Nadal in a thrilling five-setter which lasted over 5 hours, 15 minutes, and played over two days. While Nadal had not reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon since 2011, Djokovic was recovering from a long elbow injury. The match started late due to a six and half hour semifinal between Kevin Anderson and John Isner. After 3-sets with Djokovic leading 2-1, the match was halted as Wimbledon does not permit match play after 11:00 p.m.

Nadal then forced the match to the last set after prevailing in the fourth. In the fifth set, both players missed several breakpoint opportunities as the games went with serve till the first seventeen games. In the end, Djokovic broke Nadal’s serve to love to seal the match with a 6-4, 3-6. 7-6, 3-6, 10-8 victory.

Significant achievements

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  1. From March 2011 to April 2013, the pair contested eleven consecutive meetings in the championship match, the only duo to ever achieve such a feat in the Open Era.
  2.  Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are the only two players in the Open Era to play 55 matches against one another.
  3. The two arch-rivals are the only players in the open era to compete in 26 finals.
  4. They are the only players to have played each other 27 times in the ATP Masters 1000.
  5. They have the longest winning streak at a Masters 1000 event with 11 consecutive victories, 2005-2015, Nadal 7 titles, Djokovic 4 titles.
  6. Djokovic and Nadal are the only two players in the open era to simultaneously hold all 9 Masters 1000 titles (2013 Monte-Carlo to 2014 Miami) between them.
  7. They are the first male pair in Open Era history to have met in each of the four Grand Slam finals.
  8. They are the only male pair in Open Era history to have met in four consecutive major finals.
  9. The two arch-rivals have played the most matches against each other at a single Grand Slam event with 7 matches played at the French Open.
  10. They have the highest numbers of Masters 1000 titles in the open era, with Nadal winning 35 trophies and Djokovic 33.

Despite their achievements, it will be interesting to see till when can Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal continue to break records and create more memorable matches.

 

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Varun Khanna

1334 articles

Starting off as a tennis author in 2018, Varun Khanna has gone on to contribute to EssentiallySports in various capacities. After setting up interviews with the likes of Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou, Alizé Cornet, and Noah Rubin, Varun is now part of all major ATP and WTA press conferences and has gone on to pen more than 1300 articles for EssentiallySports. He now heads the tennis and NBA division of the organization.

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