Novak Djokovic (36-Serbia) said that hearing long-time rival Rafael Nadal (37-Spain) announce that he will retire in 2024 left him questioning how long he too will be able to continue playing.
“When Nadal announced that he was going to play his last season, I felt that a part of me was leaving with him,” Djokovic said ahead of the 2023 French Open (Roland Garros), which starts on 28 August, according to BBC Sport.
Djokovic is currently tied with Nadal for the most Grand Slam men’s singles titles of all time with 22. For him, winning the French Open is a golden opportunity to surpass Nadal.메이저사이트
Nadal was once dubbed the King of Clay, winning 14 men’s singles titles at Roland Garros alone, but a nagging, long-term hip injury forced him to retire after 19 years. He recently announced his intention to retire in 2024, saying on social media that he did not know when he would return to the court.
Djokovic and Nadal have formed one of the most enduring rivalries in tennis history, having faced each other 59 times on the ATP Tour, and have nearly shared the Grand Slam men’s singles title with Roger Federer (SUI), another member of the ‘Big Three’.
“He was a big motivator for me to keep playing, to keep competing, to keep pushing each other, to see who could achieve more,” Djokovic said, “so that news (Nadal’s retirement) came as a shock to everyone.”
He added: “It made me think about my career. I’m not going to make any announcements today, but when I thought about it, I got a little emotional about what he said.”
Djokovic has twice won the men’s singles title at Roland Garros. Once in 2016, when Nadal withdrew from the tournament after three rounds, and once in 2021, when he beat Nadal in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic, who has faced Nadal 10 times at Roland Garros and lost eight times, said: “To be honest, I don’t like to see Nadal in the Roland Garros bracket. I could have beaten him twice, but I had to leave my heart and guts on the court to achieve it,” he confessed.
“So I know how difficult it is to play with Nadal wherever I play. Especially here.”