x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Novak Djokovic does not fear Rafael Nadal’s feats on clay

With back-to-back Masters crowns in his bag and the confidence of three straight wins over Rafael Nadal to boot, Novak Djokovic looks primed for the clay-court season and the defence of his Monte Carlo Masters title.

Novak Djokovic talks over strategy with new coach Boris Becker in a practice session for the ATP Monte Carlo Rolex Masters on April 14, 2014 in Monaco. Julian Finney / Getty Images
Novak Djokovic talks over strategy with new coach Boris Becker in a practice session for the ATP Monte Carlo Rolex Masters on April 14, 2014 in Monaco. Julian Finney / Getty Images

With back-to-back Masters crowns in his bag and the confidence of three straight wins over Rafael Nadal to boot, Novak Djokovic looks primed for the clay-court season and the defence of his Monte Carlo Masters title.

“Right now I do have confidence after the wins I had in Indian Wells and Miami,” the Serbian said ahead of the start of Europe’s clay-court swing, which ends with the French Open – the only grand slam title missing from Djokovic’s resume. “They arrived at the right moment for me because I had a bit of a slow start to the season. Beating Rafa and Roger [Federer] in the finals gives me a confidence boost.”

Both those wins – and the three successive victories against Nadal – have all been on hard courts. On clay courts, the Spaniard is a different beast, the undisputed king of the surface with 43 of his 62 titles on clay. Nadal’s career-winning percentage on clay is 93.4.

Only two other players in tennis annals – Bjorn Borg (86.3) and Ivan Lendl (81.4) – had a winning rate on clay greater than 80 per cent.

But then Djokovic is one of only three players – Federer and Horacio Zeballos the others – to have beaten Nadal in a clay-court final, and he has done it three times, all in Masters, including at Monte Carlo a year ago, when he brought the Spaniard’s run of eight straight titles at the tournament to an end.

The Serb is well set to do it again and, if he does, success at Roland Garros might seem like a possibility, as well.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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