herald

Monday 23 April 2018

Novak hungry for Rafa scalp

Serbian seeks Tour win against 'biggest rival'

Roger Federer, right, congratulates Rafael Nadal. Picture: Dylan Martinez/REUTERS
Roger Federer, right, congratulates Rafael Nadal. Picture: Dylan Martinez/REUTERS

Motivation will not be in short supply when the 2013 ATP World Tour season ends with a bang at London's O2 Arena tonight.

After seven days of action at the ATP World Tour Finals, the last two men standing are Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

The world's top two players are preparing to meet for a 39th time, more than any other men in the Open era, and it is certainly not just the Brad Drewett Trophy at stake.

There is 1,500 ranking points and £1.2million, but also the psychological boost of finishing the year having vanquished your biggest rival.

Perhaps it is more important for Djokovic, who is the defending champion and has won all 21 matches since losing to Nadal in the US Open final.

It was not enough to prevent Nadal finishing the year as world number one, but victory would certainly boost Djokovic's hopes of regaining the top ranking in 2014.

The Serbian said: "After the US Open final, I haven't lost a match. I'm trying to take a lot of positive energy out of this confidence and out of this run that I had. I won against him in the finals of Beijing in straight sets and I played a great match.

Improved

"I liked the way I improved in our matches. I like that I changed a few things that allowed me to win against him. That's something that I will definitely try to use.

"He has immensely improved on hard courts. Comparing to all the other surfaces in our sport, this is probably his least preferable, but not this year.

"This year he has had incredible success. He's more aggressive. He's using his serve better.

"It doesn't matter which tournament that we play, whenever we play each other, especially in the last few years, there is a lot on the line. It's a huge motivation for both of us to win against the biggest rival. Of course, there are no clear favourites in the final. It's always expected that we go the distance. Let the better man win."

Both men maintained their 100pc records at the tournament this year with straight-sets victories in the last four. Nadal defeated Roger Federer for a 22nd time in 32 meetings 7-5 6-3 while Djokovic ended the run of debutant Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3 6-3.

Nadal leads the head-to-head against Djokovic 22-16 but the Serbian has won 12 of their 19 meetings on hard courts.

This is the biggest title Nadal has not yet won, and he said: "The most important thing is on the toughest surface for me to play I was able to win four matches against top-eight players. That's great news for me.

"It's a very good way to finish the year. Now remains the last match. I hope to be ready for that. I know it's going to be a difficult one. But I will try my best. I need to play my best match to have a chance."

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