Nadal braced for Djokovic showdown

By Sports Desk July 11, 2018

Rafael Nadal knows he will have to be at his best to beat a rejuvenated Novak Djokovic after coming through an epic Wimbledon quarter-final against Juan Martin del Potro. 

The world number one had to draw on all his mental strength, stamina and talent to see off the magnificent Del Potro 7-5 6-7 (7-9) 4-6 6-4 6-4 on Centre Court.

Nadal and Djokovic have met 51 times in their illustrious careers, the Serbian having the edge over his rival with 26 victories, though he has lost their last two encounters, both on clay.

The Spaniard – seeded second at SW19 this year - is braced for another huge test on Friday as he eyes a third Wimbledon triumph, with favourite Roger Federer having suffered a sensational defeat to Kevin Anderson in the last eight.

Nadal said: "There is no other match in the history of tennis that has been played more than our matches. That's a big thing. We always played in important stages, important places.

"Friday is another important match against an opponent who is one of the most difficult ones that you can face. He's playing well. The only way to try to win it is play very well.

"It is always a big challenge to face Novak. He is one of the more complex players that I have ever seen in our sport, it is always a big test. You know that you can't win against him if you don't play very well.

"But my goal is to try to play very well. I know in the semi-finals of Wimbledon you will not have an easy opponent. You have to accept that if you want to win important things. Of course you will face the best players. You need to be ready for it."

Nadal was on court for nearly five hours against Del Potro and admitted afterwards he knew the duo had been involved in something special.

"I am very happy with the way that I survived a lot of important points in that fifth set. I think I did a lot of things well. I went to the net. In general terms, it has been a positive match. The only negative thing is I played almost five hours, and I had the chance maybe to play less winning that second set." he said.

"For the rest of the things, great news, semi-finals of Wimbledon again. Great match, emotional match for both of us and for the fans, too. Great feelings."

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    Zverev, 21, clinched the biggest title of his career so far with a 6-4 6-3 win over Djokovic in the ATP Finals decider on Sunday.

    That marked his 10th ATP World Tour crown, a tally not yet close to matching that of Djokovic (72).

    Zverev hopes he can one day reach Djokovic's level, but said it was too soon to discuss that.

    "Oh, Jesus. Oh my God. God. I mean I won one of those, he won five," he told a news conference.

    "He's won, I don't know what, 148 more titles than me, so let's not go there for now.

    "I hope I can be great, but let's chill out for a little bit."

    Zverev is still searching for his first grand slam title, with his run to the French Open quarter-finals this year his best result.

    The German expects the likes of Djokovic, 31, Roger Federer, 37, and Rafael Nadal, 32, to continue challenging at majors.

    "They're still going to be the guys to beat at the big tournaments. I will hope I'll do everything I can to get better, to compete always," Zverev said.

    "I feel like I'm doing that but I still have a lot of things to improve. Hopefully next year I'll be able to play better tennis than I did this year, even though it's been a good year."

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    When Djokovic and Zverev had met in the group phase in London, the Serbian secured a dominant 6-4 6-1 win.

    And the 14-time grand slam winner jokingly conceded he had been met with a far sterner challenge in the final.

    "You definitely played much better than in the group stage," Djokovic said in an on-court interview, prompting laughter from the crowd.

    "You deserve to win. You are still quite young but you have had an amazing career so far and I wish you all the best for your future.

    "Speaking of being young, hopefully I'll play many more years and I will see you guys here in the years to come.

    "For that to happen obviously I need a good team, so I want to thank my team for a great season. Obviously today was not a great day for us, but if we put things in perspective it was an amazing year, a great comeback and thank you guys for helping me to get to where I am.

    "Last but not least, you fans have made this tournament very special for all of us. Thank you for supporting tennis for 11 months in a year. It's a very long season but you guys make it very enjoyable for all of us and it's a pleasure to perform in front of you."

    Djokovic won Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018, as well as Masters 1000 events in Shanghai and Cincinnati.

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