21-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic returned to the Tour at the 2022 Laver Cup. The Serb joined Team Europe for his second appearance as the Big-4 reunited in Roger Federer‘s retirement event. With Federer now retired, only three remain in the Big-4 group.
With Federer and Djokovic one of the biggest rivalries during the past one and a half decade, the Serb was quizzed who will be his rival going ahead. The reporter suggested reigning US Open champ and World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz but Djokovic shut it down immediately.
“Well, Rafa is still there, right? As long as he plays, my biggest rival is Rafa,” said Djokovic speaking with Carrusel Deportivo at the Laver Cup. With Djokovic and Rafael Nadal battling each other for so long, it wasn’t a shocker when he picked the ‘King of Clay’ over Alcaraz.
Novak Djokovic has played Rafael Nadal 59 times, against Carlos Alcaraz only 1 time
Djokovic’s statement makes more sense when his head-to-head record is compared between him against Nadal and him against Alcaraz. Djokovic and Alcaraz have met only once, at the semi-finals of the 2022 Madrid Masters where Alcaraz won in 3-sets on his way to clinching the title.
Between Djokovic and Nadal, the two tennis greats have met 59 times. Their latest meeting came in the quarter-finals of the 2022 French Open where Nadal won over 4-sets as he went on to win his 14th Roland Garros title and record-extending 22nd major of his career.
Alcaraz has already shown his talent with a Grand Slam title and World No. 1 rank at the age of 19. However, to call him a direct rival to Djokovic isn’t justified. To note, Djokovic had been forced out of the 2022 US Open due to the vaccine mandate and it boosted Alcaraz’s chances further.
With Djokovic now clear to play for the remainder of the season as the events are majorly in Europe, fans could expect him and Alcaraz locking horns in the business end of the tournaments. With Alcaraz and Nadal already qualified for the ATP Finals, Djokovic is still on the 15th spot and would need a big haul to qualify for the year-end championships.