Nadal Affirms Djokovic as Future Major Master

The king of clay sees Novak Djokovic becoming major monarch.

Rafael Nadal says world No. 1 Djokovic is in prime position to conclude his career as the sole Grand Slam king.

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The Big 3—Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer—are deadlocked at 20 Grand Slam titles apiece.

Two-time Olympic gold medal champion Nadal cites Djokovic’s lofty level of play—and the fact rival Federer is rehabbing from his fourth knee surgery and the Spaniard himself is coming back from a foot injury—means all signs point to the 34-year-old Serbian owning the men’s major mark when all is said and done.

“Djokovic is best positioned to be the player with the most Grand Slams,” Nadal said in an interview with Vamos on Movistar+.

“You don’t have to fool yourself—Federer is where he is and I am where I am,” Nadal said. “However, Djokovic is playing well and in a good moment.”

Since Nadal defeated Djokovic to win the 2020 Roland Garros, the 35-year-old Spaniard has played just two Grand Slam events and pulled the plug on his 2021 ATP season last August after aggravating a chronic foot injury in Washington, DC.

Nadal has won at least one title an Open Era-record 18 straight years. However, Djokovic, who has won 30 of 58 career matches vs. Nadal, has dominated the Spaniard on hard courts. In hard-court clashes, Djokovic is riding a nine-match winning streak and a 19-set winning streak vs. Nadal since losing to the left-hander at the 2013 US Open.

The Australian Open, which starts on January 17th, stands as a major crossroads presenting the opportunity for a record 21st men’s Grand Slam.

Nadal, who has committed to playing Melbourne if healthy, has not won the Australian Open since out-dueling Federer in a pulsating 2009 final. Nine-time AO champion Djokovic has not yet announced his decision on defending his Australian Open title due to the mandatory vaccination policy for players competing in Melbourne.

The 40-year-old Federer recently said while he’s still committed to a comeback he feels it’s unlikely he’ll return in time to play 2022 Wimbledon.

As his rivals are healing wounds, a healthy Djokovic came within one match of the second men’s calendar Slam in Open Era history before bowing to Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final.

Nadal says all these factors point to one reality for now: Djokovic will be Slam king.

“That is the reality and you can’t ignore it,” Nadal said. “We don’t know what is going to happen in nine months’ time, but he is the favorite right now.”

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve