Novak Djokovic will face his ‘biggest rival of all time’ Rafael Nadal in the final of the Rome Masters on Sunday in what will be there 57th clash.
Two of the tennis Big Three, Nadal and Djokovic have seen off challenges from some of the strongest players on the Tour this week to reach their 28th tournament final against each other.
And of those 28 finals, five of them have come at Rome starting in 2009, and again in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2019 with Nadal winning three and Djokovic two.
Both players have faced tough challenges to reach this year’s final. Nadal had tight matches with other top twenty players Jannik Sinner, Denis Shapovalov and winner of last weeks Madrid Masters Alexander Zverev.
Meanwhile, Djokovic saw off Monte-Carlo Masters Champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in an epic three set match which took place over two days due to rain delays with the Serbian having to come back from a set and a break down to claw his way back.
Despite all of the efforts from the younger players, the two veterans have proved that they still have the physical and mental strength to dominate and it’s something both players had a laugh about in the locker room according to Djokovic.
“Rafa and I had a little laugh in the locker room after I won against [Stefanos] Tsitsipas,” Djokovic said.
“We kind of joked around that the old guys are still not giving up.
“I saw he said somewhere a few days ago that Roger, him and I are old, but I disagree with him, I think we’re showing some different, fresh energy.
“We had a laugh about it… I’m really glad that we are showing we’re not backing off from the NextGen attacks.”
Djokovic says the rivalry between him and Nadal brings extra motivation to Sunday’s final and after all this time, it still makes him excited.
“It’s great to play him again in the final,’ Djokovic continued.
“He’s the guy that I have encountered the most in my career, definitely my biggest rival of all time.
“Playing him on clay in the finals of one of the biggest tournaments in the world is always extra motivating for me.
“Even after all we have been through in our careers, there’s still this excitement when we have to face each other.”
For more exclusive content from Tennisbuzz, including news, features, trivia, promotions and more, please be sure to sign up for our newsletter below or via our home page.
Why not test your tennis knowledge by tackling one of our fiendish quizzes too?