‘Rafael Nadal is still Roland Garros favorite,’ says Novak Djokovic’s coach


The Australian Open is behind us, and two great rivals are tied at the top again! Novak Djokovic secured his 22nd Major title in Melbourne, matching Rafael Nadal’s record and writing history books. Novak’s coach Goran Ivanisevic described their rivalry as a handball match tied at 22-22, with the next duel coming at Rafa’s court in June. Ivanisevic still places Nadal above Djokovic and everyone else at Roland Garros, complimenting his incredible record in Paris and calling him the favorite to win the 15th title! Still, Ivanisevic gives Djokovic, Alcaraz and a couple of other players a chance to beat the Roland Garros king, especially if he fails to play at 100%.

The Serb is in a much better position now, playing at a high level and setting his eyes on Roland Garros and Wimbledon. On the other hand, Nadal has been struggling with injuries for months. The Spaniard has won only five matches after the last year’s Wimbledon and experienced an early Australian Open defeat after a left hip injury. Novak defeated Rafa in the semi-final in Paris two years ago en route to his second clay-court Major. Nadal avenged that loss last year, facing Djokovic in the quarter-final and beating him 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 in four hours and 12 minutes. Despite the cold, heavy and slow conditions on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Nadal produced his A-game to beat Djokovic after another memorable marathon.

Goran Ivanisevic places Rafael Nadal above Novak Djokovic in Paris.

Novak recovered in the second set and threw everything he had at Rafa in the fourth, only to miss a set point and drop a tie break. Rafa made the difference with his second serve, keeping it safe and overpowering Novak in the pivotal moments. Nadal saved eight out of 12 break chances and turned 43% of the return points into seven breaks from 17 opportunities. The Spaniard dictated the pace with 57 winners and 43 unforced errors, leaving the Serb on a 48-53 ratio. Rafa had a massive advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes. He overpowered Novak in the most extended exchanges to seal the deal and preserve some energy for the semi-final clash. 

“Novak Djokovic can play at this level for two or three more years. He is taking care of his body and approaches food and everything at an unbelievably detailed level. The younger players are here, but Djokovic and Nadal are still battling. The Australian Open was Novak’s court, and we are heading to Rafa’s next. Their fight is like a handball match at 22-22. For me, Rafa is always the Roland Garros favorite. Some guys, including Novak and Carlos Alcaraz, can stop him, but we must remember that he has won the event 14 times. You can not win some local tournament that many times, not to mention a Major. Novak and Rafa have pushed each other, and there are the upcoming stars. Stefanos Tsitsipas will win a Major in the future; he is an amazing player,” Goran Ivanisevic said. 

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