Djokovic values rivalry with Nadal

Novak Djokovic believes his rivalry with Rafael Nadal that is currently dominating tennis can only be good for the game.

The pair met in a fourth successive grand slam final at the French Open at the weekend, the first time two men have ever played each other in every final in the space of a year.

Nadal, the victor in a rain-delayed final to earn a record seventh Roland Garros title, has now reached the final at the last five grand slams while Djokovic has been in six out of seven finals.

Only Roger Federer, in Paris last year, and Andy Murray, at the Australian Open before that, have managed to break the sequence, and neither emerged victorious.

The quality of their most recent clash, which began on Sunday and finished on Monday, was not as consistently high as the titanic final at the Australian Open, which lasted almost six hours, or the US Open last summer, but it was compelling and dramatic nonetheless.

This era is already regarded as one of the best in tennis history, but Djokovic and Nadal have clearly pulled away from their rivals, and there is a risk of it becoming predictable.

Djokovic said: “Federer and Nadal have still, I think, the biggest rivalry in the sport, because they have been at the top for so many years, they have been so dominant. I just joined that rivalry recently, a couple of years ago.

Nadal moved level with Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver on 11 grand slam titles yesterday, leaving him one behind Roy Emerson, three adrift of Pete Sampras and within five of Federer.

The Spaniard said: “I feel very lucky to have achieved what I have achieved. I have great rivals and I’m more than happy to enjoy matches. I enjoyed a lot the final in Australia. I suffered, but I enjoyed it.”

Nadal has made Court Philippe Chatrier his own stage since winning his first French Open title on his debut in 2005, with only one defeat in 53 matches at Roland Garros.

And, after losing to Djokovic in London, New York and Melbourne, he conceded it would have been very difficult to come to terms with defeat in Paris as well.

He said of his victory: “There was a lot of emotion. There always is in such moments. You don’t know if this year is going to be the last one.

“I achieved it this year, but as time goes by you give more value to those very precious moments. Last year I lost three grand slam finals in a row. If I had lost a fourth final, this would have been very difficult for me.

“So I felt it really was worth it giving my best, giving everything.”

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