Rafael Nadal heaps special praise on Novak Djokovic with Grand Slam record in his sights
Rafael Nadal announces end to 2021 season through injury
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Rafael Nadal has praised his long-time rival Novak Djokovic following a stunning 2021 season. The Serb won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year, and broke the record for most weeks at world No 1. The Spaniard has also set his sights on a Grand Slam goal after being forced to end his season early through injury.
Nadal has barely played since suffering a shock semi-final defeat to Djokovic at Roland Garros.
After aggravating an ongoing foot injury, he withdrew from Wimbledon and the Olympics before making a comeback at the ATP 500 in Washington, but it was his last tournament of 2021 before he ended his season early to focus on recovery.
Meanwhile, Djokovic had one of the best seasons of his career as he won the first three Majors of the year and put himself in contention for the Calendar Grand Slam.
The world No 1 came within just one match of becoming the first man in 52 years to win all four Slams in a single year, losing to Daniil Medvedev in the recent US Open final, and is now taking some time away from tennis after a demanding few months.
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The 13-time French Open champion has now lauded his conqueror for an impressive season and shared the reason he thought Djokovic got the better of him on the clay courts of Paris.
“He’s a perfect tennis player with no weaknesses,” Nadal said, as per TennisHead.
“Whether it’s a clay court, a turf court, or a hard court, he’s capable. And this year, he’s been astoundingly solid. Even on days when things seem to be out of order, the energy of the feeling that I will definitely win makes up.”
Speaking on their Roland Garros semi-final, which the Serb won 3-6 6-3 7-6(4) 6-2, he added: “I think Novak was more efficient and clever than I was in the game-decision phase that day, and in my eyes he looked physically fresher.”
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After losing just his third-ever match at the event in back in June, Nadal played just two matches before ending his season.
He revealed he had aggravated a foot injury that left him unable to play tennis for 20 days, forcing him out of Wimbledon and the Olympics, and later made the decision to take a few months out to recover before returning in 2022.
Having missed the US Open, Nadal underwent a “medical procedure” on his troublesome left foot and has recently returned to the practice court, though has admitted he is unsure of when he will make a return to competition.
The 35-year-old also said he had clear objectives in place for his comeback while speaking to reporters as he receive the honour of becoming an ‘adopted son’ of the Mallorcan town of Sant Llorenç des Cardassa after supporting the area during the 2018 floods.
“I do not know when I will play again, but I work a lot every day, I follow a specific plan, with a very clear roadmap and with very clear objectives,” he said at the time.
It seems one of those goals focuses on Roland Garros, where Nadal is looking to avenge his semi-final loss and win a 14th title.
After speaking on Djokovic’s performance in their four-set match, he added: “I wanted to win the championship for as long as possible, but it was interrupted. I have no regrets about it, I am burning to make the French Open my tournament again next year.”
Meanwhile, the former world No 1 also praised his other longstanding rival and fellow Big Three member Roger Federer, saying: “Roger is also a perfect tennis player. The modernity of his playing style is outstanding. It’s very difficult for his opponent to predict his play because of the variety of ways he can fight.”
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