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Novak Djokovic gives insight into playing ‘impenetrable’ Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros – ‘He is like a wall’
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Novak Djokovic gives insight into playing ‘impenetrable’ Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros – ‘He is like a wall’

Novak Djokovic has given an insight into what it will be like to face Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros as the second Grand Slam of the year quickly approaches.

Nadal has won an impressive 14 French Opens and has never lost a final on the iconic Paris court, but this is likely to be his last appearance as a player amid his ongoing injury problems.

Djokovic, himself a three-time French Open champion, has played Nadal 10 times at Roland Garros, winning just twice, and described the Spaniard as “impenetrable” on his favorite surface as the pair’s epic rivalry draws to a close.

“It’s probably one of the biggest challenges you can face on the tennis tour, playing Rafa at Roland Garros,” Djokovic said ahead of the Italian Open. “We know his record there and I’ve probably played against him more than any other player has played against him on that pitch.

“The field is bigger, there is more space, which visually has a lot of influence on the game and the player’s feeling on the field. He likes to stand far back to return.

“So there are times when he’s really in the zone and in the groove and he doesn’t make many mistakes, you feel like he’s impenetrable, he’s like a wall. It’s really a huge challenge to play against him at Roland-Garros, he’s an incredible athlete.

“The tenacity and intensity he brings on the pitch, especially there, is something that has been very rarely seen in the history of the sport.

“So I’m sure it will be a very emotional tournament for him, just like in Madrid and here, but especially there because of all the records he has.”

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‘Happy with the way I feel today’ – Nadal confident ahead of campaign in Rome

Nadal intended to compete in the Australian Open after nearly 12 months on the sidelines, but suffered a setback when he suffered a micro-tear in his hip at the Brisbane International.

That ruled him out of the first Grand Slam of 2024, but he returned last month at the Barcelona Open and played in Madrid a week later as he steps up his preparation for the French Open.

Djokovic has also been struggling lately. He was defeated by Jannik Sinner in the semi-finals in Melbourne before making early exits at Indian Wells and Monte-Carlo.

He has taken some time away from the game and has made changes to his coaching team in an attempt to rediscover his best form. He thinks he is now ready to peak at Roland-Garros.

“I had enough time to rest and train,” Djokovic added. “I’ve had a good training block and arrived here two days ago to get a goal in at center court.

“It is of course different with top players if you train with them, play practice sets, see where your game is and work towards good form for your first match.

“I think I am on the right track to peak at Roland Garros in Paris. Hopefully I can play better here in Rome than in Monte Carlo and that is of course the wish, it is always to go far. But let’s see.”

Stream top tennis action, including the 2024 French Open, live on Discovery+, the Eurosport app and on eurosport.com