Nadal and Djokovic meet at Qatar Open finals to claim final bragging rights
Former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal will meet current #1 Novak Djokovic in the finals of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open tonight, the 9th of January, with both the Spaniard and the Serb attempting to go ahead of the other in their head-to-head record as they play each other for the 47th time.
The longtime rivals, who have played 46 matches in their careers so far, currently stand dead even at 23 apiece; it is the Serb who has by far been the more successful on hard surfaces, which will bode well for him. Djokovic has also won the last four matches between the pair, most recently winning the semifinals at the year-ending ATP World Tour Finals in 2015 in straight sets against the Spaniard.
Each of the Serb’s past four victories has also been in straight sets, not a positive sign for Nadal, who has said he is looking forward to 2016 being his comeback year.
7th ranked David Ferrer of Spain is the reigning champion in Doha, but did not participate in the event this year. Nadal, meanwhile, is the reigning doubles champion, having taken the title last year with partner Juan Monaco of Argentina. The pair had then beat the all-Austrian pair of Julian Knowle and Phillipp Oswald.
Nadal last held the singles title in Doha in 2014, but in 2015 suffered a first-round exit to Germany’s Michael Berrer.
The Djokovic-Nadal rivalry, one of the most prolific in tennis’ Open Era, is the only one to have involved the finals of all four Grand Slams.
Their most recent meeting at a Grand Slam was at the quarter-finals of the 2015 French Open – on Nadal’s favourite surface, clay, with eventual finalist Novak Djokovic going down to Stan Wawrinka and seeing his dreams of a calendar slam that year cut short by the Swiss.
The Serbian is now at 16 straight finals in the calendar year, only two short of German Ivan Lendl’s Open Era record of 18.
Roger Federer, playing at the Brisbane Open in Australia, took a straight sets victory over Dominic Thiem of Austria to reach 17 consecutive finals. In doing so, the Swiss also became the first player in the Open Era to reach hard-court finals in 17 consecutive seasons.
2016 will also mark exactly 10 years since the pair first met – at the quarter-finals of the French Open at Roland Garros in 2006, where reigning champion Nadal had been the second seed – and Djokovic unseeded.
Nadal had taken the first two sets before Djokovic retired with an injury, granting the Spaniard victory as he went on to successfully defend his title.
A record 23 of the 46 matches the two have played against each other have been Masters series matches, although the Qatar ExxonMobil Open is an ATP250 event.
It’s also the last event on the ATP Calendar either of the two will play before the Australian Open, which commences on the 18th of January.