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Rafael Nadal has fired a rocketing forearm at long-time foe Novak Djokovic.
In the latest chapter of the tennis legends’ simmering feud, Nadal has responded to comments made by Djokovic in December, when the Serbian champion recalled a time that he shared a Roland-Garros locker room with his Spanish rival. Djokovic told CBS’ 60 Minutes that the intensity of Nadal’s warm-up and blaring music were “pissing me off”.
Nadal told Spanish publication El Pais this week that it was “never, never, never my intention” to intimidate Djokovic, before knocking Djokovic down amid the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) debate.
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“Since I have a memory of tennis, [Roger Federer] is the player who has impressed me the most, the one who has entertained me the most, the one who has moved me the most,” said Nadal, whose prickly relationship with Djokovic is contrasted by his deeply special bond with Federer.
“Watching Federer play has moved me more than Djokovic, and in the end, tennis is about emotion. It’s the emotion that draws you to it.”
Djokovic has won a record 24 singles grand slam titles, placing himself ahead of Nadal (22) and Federer (20) in the GOAT debate purely in terms of numbers.
Federer won his final grand slam title at the 2018 Australian Open and announced his retirement four years later, calling time in September 2022.
Nadal continues to fight on — he’s Down Under for another Australian Open — but whether the 37-year-old’s battered body will allow for another grand slam title is tough to predict.
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Djokovic, in contrast, is still exceptionally fit at the age of 36 and highly likely to add more grand slam triumphs to his resume. He’s the hot favourite to win a record-extending 11th Australian Open title in Melbourne this month.
But as Nadal noted in his interview with El Pais, “there are several factors” to weigh up in the GOAT argument — not just statistics.
“Some I won’t tell you because it’s difficult for me, it’s not my place to comment on them, but in terms of tennis, it’s clear,” Nadal said.
“It’s a combination of very radical styles. Federer was perfection in terms of aesthetics, elegance and technique.
“I have very good technique, but technique is not the same as aesthetics. They are two different things. He had incredible technique, doing things beautifully with impressive elegance.
“We have all reinvented ourselves [and] that’s why there has been this intense rivalry. We always surprised each other. Djokovic, as well, but with a difference compared to the two of us.
“He hasn’t needed to evolve [his style] as much as we have. He hasn’t suffered as many injuries. The only thing that has demanded him to improve his game has been his rivals, not physical issues. That’s a difference.”