Rafael Nadal warning sent to Novak Djokovic over Roger Federer Grand Slam dogfight

Novak Djokovic has been warned Rafael Nadal looks “just as strong” as him as the duo look to surpass Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam triumphs. The Spaniard joined Federer on 20 by thrashing Djokovic in straight sets in the final of the French Open back in October.

The Serbian ended the year as No 1 but only added one major to his tally, winning the Australian Open at the start of 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Nadal opted out of the US Open, as did the injured Federer, to leave Djokovic as the strong favourite in New York but he was defaulted for inadvertently hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball.

That allowed Dominic Thiem to claim his first career Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows and leaves Djokovic trailing his two great rivals by three Slams.

Djokovic, at 33, has a year on Nadal and is six years younger than Federer as the triumvirate battle it out to be recognised as the greatest male tennis player of all time.

And the current world No 1 is the strongest candidate to win the upcoming Australian Open next month having won a record eight Slams in Melbourne.

But as Djokovic looks to reign supreme over Nadal and Federer, he has been warned by Roger Rasheed – the coach of former No 1 Lleyton Hewitt and Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Grigor Dimitrov – that Nadal is looking fearsome once more.

Nadal did not drop a single set at Roland Garros as he won an incredible 13th French Open and reached the semi-finals of the Paris Masters and ATP World Tour Finals before losing to Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev respectively, with the Russian winning both titles.

“You gotta be well aware and understand that Novak’s a lot younger in age so you feel that the three Grand Slams are going to be chased down,” Rasheed said.

“Novak’s definitely put it on his agenda [to catch up to Federer on 20].

“Rafa’s gonna be around a little bit longer as well. Five years ago people were writing him off, saying his body is finished, well he looks just as strong now.”

Former British No 1 Greg Rusedski believes Djokovic needs to win at least two Slams in 2021 as he expects Nadal to continue being the ‘King of Clay’ in the Paris major.

“I think he will [surpass Sampras’ record for most year-end No 1s and Federer’s record for most weeks as No 1] but the only guy I’m thinking is that Nadal might have more Slams than him,” Rusedski told Express Sport of Djokovic.

“Djokovic is going to surpass Federer, he won’t have the most wins or the most titles but he will surpass him for most Grand Slam titles.

“I think the battle is between two guys. Not winning that US Open, that would’ve taken him to 18 instead of 17 and now Nadal, you’ve got to give him the French unless Thiem can knock him off his pedestal in Paris.

“That’s the only guy who can beat him in my opinion there. He needs two Slams next year at least, or three.

“It becomes fascinating, there’s so many curveballs. The next generation of guys are sick of this big three!”

Federer will meanwhile take no part in the rescheduled Australian Open in February with his agent Tony Godsick confirming after a year out due to injury that he is not yet fit enough to play a Slam.

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“Roger has decided not to play the 2021 Australian Open,” Godsick said.  “He has made strong progress in the last couple of months with his knee and his fitness.

“However, after consultation with his team, he decided that the best decision for him in the long run is to return to competitive tennis after the Australian Open.”

While tournament director Craig Tiley said: “In the end Roger ran out of time to get himself ready for the rigours of a Grand Slam and he’s very disappointed he won’t be coming to Melbourne in 2021.

“We wish him all the best as he prepares for his comeback later in the year and look forward to seeing him in Melbourne in 2022.”

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