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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Tuesday, September 19, 2024

Big 3 rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic share the most prolific rivalry in ATP history.  

The Grand Slam champions differ in their pursuit of major history, says Nadal.

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The 22-time major champion Nadal said he would definitely like to be Grand Slam king, but insists the major race is a motivation and not an obsession for him.

Whereas Nadal believes 24-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic is so driven for major success, he would be frustrated without owning the record “and maybe that’s why he has achieved it.”

"I don't feel anything when I see Djokovic win,” Nadal said in a Movistar Plus + interview with Juanma Castaño. "If I would have liked to be the tennis player with the most Grand Slams in history? Yes, but it has never been an obsession nor does it frustrate me. With 22 Grand Slams you cannot live frustrated.”

Ambition is like fire, Nadal suggests, it can fuel you or it can consume you.

The 14-time Roland Garros champion said Djokovic takes ambition “to the maximum” and points out the cultural differences between the pair—Djokovic grew up in war-torn Serbia dreaming of winning Wimbledon, while Nadal grew up on the island of Mallorca aspiring to raise the Roland Garros title trophy—shaped disparate perspectives

“Novak lives it differently than I have,” Nadal told Juanma Castaño. “For him it would have been a greater frustration not to achieve [the Grand Slam record] and maybe that's why he has achieved it. He has had the ability to take ambition to the maximum.

“I have been ambitious, but in a healthy ambition that has allowed me to see things with perspective without getting too angry on the court when things were not going well for me. They are different cultures and each player, each country experiences it differently. I’m happy with what I have done."

Tennis Express

Earlier this year, Djokovic said while he and Nadal share massive respect for one another, their professional rivalry makes it "impossible" for them to be true personal friends though they are cordial with each other.

“Nadal is only a year older than me, we are both Geminis, at first we even went to dinner together, twice,” Djokovic told Italian publication Corriere Della Sera last May. “But even with him, friendship is impossible.

“I have always respected and greatly admired Nadal. Thanks to him and Federer, I grew up and became who I am. This will unite us forever; therefore I feel gratitude towards them. Nadal is a part of my life, in the last fifteen years I've seen more of him than my mom!”

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve