“He’s a big warrior” – Djokovic relishing facing Nadal again as Spaniard confirms he will return

Nadal confirmed yesterday that he would be returning to competitive action, after nearly a whole year out, although it is still too early to say when or where he will make his comeback

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at Roland-Garros in 2022 AI/Reuters/Panoramic
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Novak Djokovic is looking forward to the prospect of facing his old rival, Rafael Nadal, once again after the Spaniard confirmed that he would be returning to competitive action.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion, and arguably Djokovic’s biggest career rival, has been out of action all year after requiring hip surgery due to an injury sustained at this year’s Australian Open back in January.

While working hard on a comeback, it remained to be seen whether the Spaniard would be able to return at all. But after confirming this week that he will be back, following positive steps in the right direction on his path to recovery, Djokovic has welcomed the news.

“For the world of tennis, no doubt that it’s amazing news that he’ll be back,” the 24-time Grand Slam champion said, following his three-set win over Hubert Hurkacz at the ATP Finals.

In Nadal’s absence, Djokovic has equalled and overhauled his previous men’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles, moving two major titles clear of his nearest rival by winning the US Open in September.

The pair have played 59 times in total, and the world No 1 would be happy to get to at least the 60 mark with Rafa.

“I think it would be nice for the sport to have at least one more match between Nadal and me,” Novak said.

“That’s the biggest rivalry in terms of the amount of matches played that this sport ever had. Hopefully that can happen.

“He’s a big warrior. He’s somebody that really never gives up. With all the injuries that he had, keeps going.

“That’s definitely something that you have to respect and admire about him and his spirit.”

The pair’s last meeting came in the 2022 Roland-Garros quarter-finals – their 59th in total

While there is no specific tournament or date set for Nadal’s highly anticipated return, the news that he is in a good enough physical state to commit to a definite comeback will be of great delight to his fans.

In his absence, the next generation have asserted themselves as the very best players in the world – alongside, or just behind, Djokovic.

As testament to his seemingly timeless talent, the Serb has now begun scintillating rivalries with the likes of Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune – rivalries which are now his primary focus as he looks to break more records.

But another meeting between Nadal and Djokovic, wherever it may be, would form yet another late chapter in what both men would ultimately describe as the biggest and most defining rivalry of their careers.

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