Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic
Rafael Nadal (R) and Novak Djokovic (L) played each other for 59 times Filippo MONTEFORTE/AFP

Novak Djokovic recently admitted that he was intimidated by arch-rival Rafael Nadal's pre-match routine.

Djokovic's comments were about the time when he was a rookie on the ATP Tour. These two tennis players have together built one of the fiercest rivalries in the history of the sport. The Serb, however, has a narrow 30-29 advantage over Nadal in their head-to-head record.

Nadal and Djokovic's rivalry began in 2006 when the two first faced off in the quarter-finals of the French Open. For three consecutive years – 2006, 2007 and 2008, Djokovic's campaign in the clay court Grand Slam was ended by Nadal.

Speaking on "60 minutes", Djokovic recalled being daunted by Nadal's pre-match behaviour at the French Open but did not specify which year. The World No. 1 ATP star said the locker room was not big enough for them both to stay out of each other's way. Therefore, Nadal did his warm-up right next to Djokovic, so close that the Serbian player could hear music from his headphones.

"I'm playing Nadal in Roland Garros, and I have his locker next to my locker, right? So, we are so close. And we're trying to give each other space. But then the locker room is also not that big. And the way you jump around like Nadal does before we go out on the court," said Djokovic.

Djokovic also said that while he was not aware how a pre-match routine was a part of the "scenario", it did motivate him to do his bit as well and be ready to challenge Nadal on the court.

"In the locker room, he's doing sprints next to you. I can even hear the music he's listening to in his headphones [he mimics it]. So, you know, it's pissing me off. Early in my career, I didn't realize how all that's part of the scenario, right? So, I was getting intimidated by that. But it's also motivating me to do stuff myself and to show that I'm ready, you know? I'm ready for a battle, for a war," added Djokovic.

When the Serbian player won his second Grand Slam title at the Australian Open 2011, Nadal already had nine major titles to his name, having completed his Career Slam. Roger Federer, meanwhile, was in a league of his own with 16 Grand Slams to his name.

With a dominant run in 2011, where Djokovic won all Grand Slams but the French Open, the Serb etched his name among the elite. There was no looking back after that. While Federer ended his career with 20 Grand Slams, four fewer than Djokovic's record of 24 major titles. Nadal is also behind in the race with 22 Grand Slams.