Novak Djokovic snubs Roger Federer as he names Rafael Nadal ‘greatest rival of all time’

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After 58 clashes and counting, Novak Djokovic didn’t hesitate to name Rafael Nadal as his “greatest rival of all time.” That’s despite his head-to-head against Roger Federer being considered one of the most celebrated tennis feuds the sport has witnessed.

Both Djokovic and Nadal are in the running for this year’s Madrid Open, marking the first time that both players have been in the same singles draw since last year’s French Open. The latter’s return from injury puts him in the frame to reclaim his Roland Garros crown later in May, and a strong showing in Madrid would be of major value.

Djokovic, 34, was asked how it affects him to have Nadal back in his sights after the pair have been kept apart in competition for so long. Although he didn’t explicitly name Federer, the Serb didn’t waver when it came to confirming who is his biggest nemesis.

“Well, of course it affects, because he’s my greatest rival of all time,” he told reporters. “You’re right. I mean, I wasn’t thinking about this, but we have not been in the same draw for a while. You know, things are changing. We have young players, and we are both trying to do our best to compete for the top spots of the world. I think we are still going strong, so it’s nice to see that.”

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While Nadal, 35, is rallying to collect a record-extending 14th French Open title, 40-year-old Federer remains sidelined following knee surgery last year and may not return until the fall. From a promotional perspective, it therefore makes sense for Djokovic to publicise his rivalry with Nadal as the clay court season puts them on a collision course in the coming weeks.

But it’s also understandable that ‘Nole’ could be sincere in his appraisal. He’s met the Spaniard on eight more occasions than he has Federer (50), though Djokovic leads the head-to-head record against both opponents.


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His 58 encounters with Nadal also makes theirs the most prolific rivalry in the men’s Open era, having met more than any other pair. That includes a joint-record 17 Grand Slam matches (level with Djokovic-Federer), and Djokovic is the only person to haver bested his Mallorcan adversary at all four majors.

Nadal opens his Madrid Open campaign against Miomir Kecmanovic on Wednesday and could meet the top seed in the competition’s semi-finals. Djokovic is already through to the third round after devastating Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2 in his opener, meanwhile, and is set to face off against wild card Andy Murray on Thursday.

Federer’s golden years saw him school Djokovic for the early stages of their rivalry, but the tables have since turned. While some of those encounters will remain classics for the ages, however, Nadal’s ability to keep pace with the world No. 1 means their conflict may now go down as the best of all time.

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