“Rivals Only During Matches”: Rafael Nadal Details His Relationship With Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic

Published 03/03/2021, 1:14 AM EST
Novak Djokovic of Serbia, Rafael Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerlan wait to go on stage during the ATP Heritage Celebration at The Waldorf=Astoria on in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)


Former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal has shared two memorable rivalries with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic over the course of his career.

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The Spaniard beat his Swiss contemporary when they first played against each other in the Miami Open 2004. Rafa beat the then World No. 1 (Federer) in straight sets. 

On the other hand, Nadal played against Novak for the first time at Roland Garros and won the match after taking the first two sets. Unfortunately, the match couldn’t be completed as the Serb retired due to a lower back injury. Since then, the two athletes have competed in 55 matches against each other and Novak leads the tie, 29-27. 

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2018 French Open Tennis Tournament – Rafael Nadal of Spain and Novak Djokovic of Serbia while playing a tie break doubles exhibition match against Simone Halep of Romania and Alexander Zverev of Germany on Court Philippe Chatrier during a packed Children’s Day at Roland Garros before the start of the 2018 French Open Tennis Tournament at Roland Garros on May 26th 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal: “The fight takes place only on the tennis court”

The 13-time French Open champion was recently asked about the relationship he shares with his two main rivals. The player from Mallorca stated, “I have a great relationship with Roger and Novak. We are rivals only during our matches. The fight takes place only on the tennis court.”

While Djokovic edges past Rafa in their head-to-head, the Spaniard leads the tie in his rivalry with Federer. They’ve played each other on 40 occasions, and Nadal has won 24 of those matches against Roger’s 16 wins.

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The first time the Spaniard played against the Swiss superstar was as a young 17-year-old and they are still going toe-to-toe in their mid-thirties.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – SEPTEMBER 20: Rafael Nadal of Team Europe and teammate Roger Federer share a joke during the singles match between Stefanos Tsitsipas of Team Europe and Taylor Fritz of Team World during Day One of the Laver Cup 2019 at Palexpo on September 20, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. The Laver Cup will see six players from the rest of the World competing against their counterparts from Europe. Team World is captained by John McEnroe and Team Europe is captained by Bjorn Borg. The tournament runs from September 20-22. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images for Laver Cup)

The last time the two superstars competed against each other was at the Wimbledon 2019 when Roger beat Rafa in 4 sets to book a spot in the final. On the other hand, Nadal dismantled Novak in the French Open 2020 final, which happened to be the last match they’ve played. 

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Rohan Kollare

579 articles

Rohan Kollare is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. Rohan has a post-graduate diploma in Sports Management and a trophy cabinet adorned with accolades won in district and state-level tennis competitions. He has previously worked in Content Operations for Disney’s Hotstar for over a year, covering tennis and Formula One.

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