Novak Djokovic is all set to face Rafael Nadal in a much-anticipated Roland Garros semifinal on Friday. And ahead of the blockbuster clash, Djokovic claimed that Nadal is the "biggest rival" he has ever had in his career.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal defeated Matteo Berrettini and Diego Schwartzman in their respective quarterfinals on Wednesday to set up a 58th career meeting against each other. Djokovic vs Nadal is widely considered the definitive rivalry of the current era, and arguably even greater than Federer vs Nadal.
In fact, many believe that the Serb and the Spaniard have created a rivalry that is behind only one other in tennis history - the legendary matchup between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, who faced each other a record 80 times on tour.
When asked to comment on the rivalry with Rafael Nadal in his post-match press conference on Wednesday, Novak Djokovic claimed that he anticipates matches against Nadal more than his duels with any other player.
"Yeah I will probably pick Rafa as the biggest rival I have ever had in my career," Djokovic said. "The anticipation for the match against him (for me), any match on any surface, any occasion is always different from any other."
Novak Djokovic further claimed he was "privileged" to have played the Mallorcan as often as he has.
"Rivalry between us (Rafael Nadal and him) has been, I think, historic for this sport and I have been privileged to play him so many times," the Serb said.
Novak Djokovic also highlighted how his rivalries with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have helped him improve and evolve as a player.
"And I was mentioning before that rivalries with him and Roger have made me a stronger player and allowed me to understand how I need to improve my game to get to the level where they were actually when I started playing professional tennis," Djokovic added.
The quality of tennis that I've been playing in the past 3-4 weeks is giving me good sensations ahead of Rafael Nadal clash: Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic has been in fine form ever since he lost to Aslan Karatsev in the semifinals of the Serbia Open in April. The World No. 1 finished as the runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the Italian Open, before going on to win the title at the Belgrade Open a week later.
At Roland Garros, Novak Djokovic looked at his imperious best in the first few matches. He did have a rough start against Lorenzo Musetti in the fourth round, but the Serb turned things around in style and then continued his good form against Matteo Berrettini.
Given all that, Djokovic asserted on Wednesday that he is delighted with his form ahead of the clash with Rafael Nadal.
"The quality and the level of tennis that I've been playing in the past three, four weeks on clay — [in] Rome, Belgrade and here — is giving me good sensations and feelings ahead of that match," Djokovic said.