‘Playing Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is not like any other match,’ says Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic says playing Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is ‘the biggest challenge you can have’ as he prepares for their next meeting.

Djokovic produced a fine performance to beat Matteo Berrettini on Wednesday, with his reward being a semi-final date with Nadal.

Nadal has only lost twice in his entire career at the French Open, although Djokovic is one of the men who owns one of those wins.

“It’s not like any other match,” Djokovic said of his Roland Garros battles with Nadal.

“Let’s face it, it’s the biggest challenge that you can have: playing on clay against Nadal, on this court on which he has had so much success in his career, in the final stages of a Grand Slam. It doesn’t get bigger than that.

“Of course, each time we face each other, there’s that extra tension and expectations. [The] vibes are different walking on the court with him.

“But that’s why our rivalry has been historic, I think, for this sport. I’ve been privileged to play him so many times.

“[My] rivalries with him and Roger [Federer] have made me a stronger player, allowed me to understand how I need to improve my game to get to the level where they were when I started playing professional tennis.

“I’ll probably pick Rafa as the biggest rival I’ve ever had in my career.

“The anticipation for the match against him — any match, any surface, any occasion — is always different from any other.”

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