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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday May 27, 2023

How did Novak Djokovic feel when he realized that Rafael Nadal wasn’t going to play Roland-Garros, and that he is planning to make 2024 his last season? Like everybody else, shocked.

Tennis Express

“That news came in a way as a shock to everybody,” he said. “People were asking me how I felt when he said that. I was saying that always he's my biggest rival. When he announced that he's going to have his last season of career, I felt part of me is leaving with him too, if you know what I mean.”

Djokovic, the only player to earn multiple wins over Nadal, says that he doesn’t mind not seeing him in the draw, however. It gives him a bigger chance to earn his 23rd major title, after all.

“I don't like seeing him in the draw of Roland Garros, to be honest,” he said. “I have had not so much success against him in our head-to-head at Roland Garros.

“I have managed to beat him twice, but I had to leave my heart and my guts out on the court to achieve that. So I know how hard it is to play him anywhere, really, around the world, but especially here.”

The Spaniard, a 14-time Roland-Garros champion, owns a 8-2 lifetime record over Djokovic but the Serb owns the 30-29 overall lifetime edge.

No matter the numbers, the rivalry is epic, and Djokovic has immense respect for the King of Clay.

“I feel that he was one of the most, I would say, impactful people that I have ever had in my career, the growth of my career, and me as a player,” he said. “Definitely a great motivational factor for me to keep playing and keep competing and keep pushing each other – you know, who's gonna achieve more, who's gonna do better.”

Djokovic admits that Nadal’s announcement has made a big impact him and it has made him think about his tennis mortality as well.

“It made me wonder, it made me think about my career and how long I'm going to play,” he said. “So far I'm not going to make any announcement today, but just reflecting on it, I felt also a little bit emotional about what he was saying.”