Novak Djokovic admits he admires three things about Rafael Nadal ahead of Wimbledon

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Novak Djokovic has shared three things he “admires” about long-time rival Rafael Nadal as he bids to catch the Spaniard in the Grand Slam race at Wimbledon. The world No 4 returned from surgery this year to win the Australian Open and French Open, taking his tally to 22 Majors while the Serb remains on 20.

Djokovic has lauded Nadal for his incredible 2022 season, which has seen the 36-year-old win both Grand Slam tournaments so far this year. As part of his praise, he noted several things he commended his rival for, including his impressive comeback in January that saw him win a record 21st Major at the Australian Open before extending his lead by winning the French earlier this month.

“He had a surgery second part of last year, coming back after that surgery and winning [a] Grand Slam right away. Something that is really impressive, of course,” the world No 3 said of Nadal. “Making history as well with Grand Slam wins. Again, in Roland Garros, of course, the tournament where historically he has won most titles.”

The Serb also said he admired his rival for his ability to fight and continue making history. Djokovic added: “Just hats down for what he has achieved, what he keeps on doing on the court. Great fighting spirit. Amazing champion.

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“Just in general overall things that he’s trying to do in order to create even more of a successful legacy for him on the court is something that you just have to respect and admire, of course, even though I’m one of his biggest rivals and we had incredible matches during our career.”

The defending champion at Wimbledon also said he had “nothing but respect for him and what he has achieved.” But Djokovic will be hoping to chase Nadal’s Grand Slam record and win his own 21st Major title at the All England Club this fortnight after losing the record to his rival.

The 35-year-old started 2021 by winning the first three Grand Slam events of the year, tying Nadal and Federer on the old men’s singles record of 20 titles. He then went to the US Open as the favourite to win the Calendar Grand Slam for the first time in 52 years as well as a record 21st title but lost in the final.

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After he was deported ahead of the Australian Open, it left Nadal able to win his first title at Melbourne Park in 13 years to reach the record of 21 Grand Slams before Djokovic, and the Spaniard beat the world No 3 at the recent French Open en route to his 22nd Major crown.

But the Serb has the edge over Nadal at Wimbledon, having won the tournament six times, including the last three editions consecutively. And Djokovic is also hoping to chase another record at SW19 this fortnight as he said: “Pete Sampras, winning his first Wimbledon, was the first tennis match I’ve ever seen on the TV. So, of course, there’s a lot of connection to this tournament. Pete has won it seven times, if I’m not mistaken. Hopefully, yeah, I can do the same this year.”

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