The prospect of Rafael Nadal facing Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the French Open is close to becoming a reality after both players progressed to the quarterfinals on Monday. Just one win stands between what is likely to be the most anticipated match of the tournament.
The world has anointed Nadal as "The King of Roland Garros" owing to his record 13 French Open titles. The Serbian player was asked in a recent interview if he tries to learn by watching the clay court maestro in order to have the upper hand for when they face each other.
The world number one made it clear that he "does not copy" the Spaniard as he has his own authentic style. He admitted that there is always something to learn by watching other players – not only Nadal – but any player on the tour.
"It's always good to catch certain details from your rivals," Djokovic said, as quoted on Tennis Buzz. "Rafa and I have a completely different style of play, so I don't try to copy his game or anything like that on any surface."
"I have my own authentic style that I have developed over the years, but definitely when you watch Nadal play on clay, there is always something you can learn from."
"I consider myself a student of this sport. I can always learn something not only from him, but from any player on the circuit," he added. "I always have an open mind every time I watch tennis."
Djokovic holds a 29-28 lead in the ATP head-to-head race, but Nadal holds the edge when it comes to clay. The former world number one has beaten the Serb in their last five clashes on the red dirt and holds an overall 19-7 lead on his favourite surface.
The two legends of the game have faced each other on eight occasions at Roland Garros. Three of them have been in the finals where Nadal has always come away with a win. The only victory for Djokovic came in the quarterfinals in 2015, which prompted Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic to admit that it was better for his player to face Nadal before the final this year.
Djokovic and Nadal play their quarterfinals matches on Wednesday against Matteo Berrettini and Diego Schwartzman respectively.